Jobless Youths Left Behind As Older Workers Fill More Openings

Young People Are Left Behind On Jobs Front

Young people are getting left behind.

High unemployment is hurting many young people as they languish without developing job skills. The United States added just 80,000 jobs in June, the Labor Department reported on Friday: This amount is less than half of what would be needed for the economy to recover in a timely fashion, according to economists.

Older people are benefiting the most from the economic recovery, as they are snatching up a disproportionate share of the new jobs created, some economists say. Workers older than 55 have taken 58 percent of all new jobs in the past year, according to Dean Baker, codirector of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Older workers are taking many of the new jobs in a variety of sectors because they have more job experience, Baker said. These workers are more attractive to employers because "they've got the work habits," said Joseph Brusuelas, a senior economist at Bloomberg LP. "They're used to showing up early, staying late; they know what's required." As a result, young people are losing out on the chance to develop these habits in the workplace.

Meanwhile, young people are struggling to secure a foothold in society; unemployment is hurting many right at the moment when they need to develop job skills so as to be employable in the future. Millions of young Americans are unemployed or trapped in low-skill jobs, with some burdened by student loan debt. Many aspire to start families and live in a home larger than a cramped bedroom but cannot foresee how that will be possible.

As a result, high unemployment has forced young people to delay many aspects of their lives: They are postponing marriage, purchasing a home, saving for retirement, paying off debt and having kids.

Nearly 2 million 20- to 24-year-olds are unemployed, according to Brusuelas. "This is really messing with people's lives," Baker said. "You end up with a lot of people that don't feel they have much stake in things."


Men are also picking up new jobs at the expense of women. The unemployment rate for men 20 and older has declined 27 percent since October 2009, while the unemployment rate for their female counterparts fell only 9 percent over the same period.

That doesn't mean that many of the new jobs are glamorous. Many new positions are in traditionally low-wage sectors. Bloomberg's Brusuelas told The Huffington Post that a classic example is a laid-off 55-year-old male construction worker who has gone to work at Home Depot for $10 an hour since construction no longer is an option.

In a sense men are making up for ground lost during the recession, when certain sectors that employed lots of men shed huge numbers of workers, such as construction and manufacturing. Currently there are roughly 4 million fewer jobs in construction and manufacturing than before the recession, according to the Labor Department.

Yet women are now losing out when it comes to hiring for new positions in real estate, finance, transportation and retail, Baker said, noting that at men frequently have more general work experience and some employers take men more seriously.

Some low-income women are even opting to stay out of the workforce because many of the jobs now available offer low wages; it's not worth for them to take such posts when all costs are considered, Brusuelas said. For example, low-income mothers are choosing to remain home instead of working at minimum-wage jobs while trying to pay for child care and transportation.

Unemployed young people are "the most vulnerable to protracted unemployment," Brusuelas said. If they do not get the chance to develop their work habits, this will lower the economy's long-term potential for growth, he said.

Meanwhile, many young people are feeling despair about their long-term prospects.

"I want something that says I exist," wrote Gina Oberto, an unemployed college student, in a recent blog post. "Finding a job is the only thing that would help our situations ... or winning the lottery. Both of the odds seem pretty comparable."

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