Youth Unemployment at an Amazing 17.1%

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In Friday’s report on the employment situation in the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) disclosed that the unemployment rate for young people aged 16 to 19 remained in double digits at 17.1%. That is an improvement on the 18.8% reported in January and the February 2014 rate of 21.3%, but should be worrisome nonetheless.

Among young African Americans, the BLS reported an unemployment rate of 30.0%. That is actually an improvement from a rate of 33.2% in December. The unemployment rate among young white Americans is 15%. Among African American men more than 20 years old, the unemployment rate is 10.4%, compared with an unemployment rate of 4.5% for white men in the same age group.

The overall unemployment rate in the United States dropped to 5.5% in February, its lowest point in seven years, but that is little comfort to 10.8 million young people the BLS lists as not in the labor force, more than double the 4.8 million youth cited as employed.

Young people often have little or no work experience, and in the current U.S. economy may find themselves competing for the same jobs as older workers. Those jobs include food service, retail and clerical work, which were at one time the special province of young workers. When the economy tanked in 2009 and companies laid off thousands of workers, competition for those jobs intensified and young people fell to the bottom of the pile.

The economic collapse also wiped out or severely damaged many older workers’ retirement savings and they have chosen to stay in the workforce, further crimping opportunities for young workers.

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