To Be Young, Unemployed, or Working for Free in the USA

David Ruccio | Real-World Economics Review Blog | May 9, 2012

As the semester draws to a close, I’ve been hearing from my students about their job prospects. And it’s pretty ugly. Some have landed decent-paying jobs, either for the summer or upon graduation. But many others have not been able to find a real job or they’re going to be underemployed or they’ve accepted unpaid internships. And they’re pretty sad. It may not help much but they should also know they’re not alone why they join the ranks of the unemployed/underemployed/unpaid youth in this country.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the official unemployment rate among young people (ages 16 to 19 years) is 24.9 percent, up from 23 percent a year ago. And, according to the Associated Press, the weak labor market already has left half of young college graduates either jobless or underemployed in positions that don’t fully use their skills and knowledge.

About 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years. In 2000, the share was at a low of 41 percent, before the dot-com bust erased job gains for college graduates in the telecommunications and IT fields...