Youth Unemployment Gap Of 2.7 Million 'May Never End': Report

If young people represent America's future, then that future is filled with low wages and high unemployment.

Since the start of the Great Recession, 2.7 million people between the ages of 16 and 24 have lost their jobs or can no longer find employment, according to a report by the group Young Invincibles (h/t The Wall Street Journal). The report, called "No End In Sight," estimates that the present state of youth employment is the worst it's been since the Great Depression. Unlike during other recent recessions -- in 1981, 1990 and 2001 -- youth unemployment has not only spiked during the Great Recession, it's remained stubbornly high for a protracted period of time since.

"During no other downturn in recent memory was the unemployment rate so high for so long," the report states.

Young Invicibles argues in the report that high levels of youth unemployment "may never end," unless the government steps in through targeted jobs programs like AmeriCorps.

The unemployment rate for Americas between the age of 16 and 19 years is more than 23 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates. This number shrinks to 20.9 percent among white youths and expands to 39.3 percent for African American youth.

These high levels don't just affect kids looking for summer jobs. They also affect future employment and wage prospects for generation that are either entering or have yet to enter the labor force.

American youth are particularly prone to long-term unemployment, according to recent economic data. Workers over the age of 55 have acquired 58 percent of available jobs, economist Dean Baker estimates, largely because they often have more job experience than younger applicants. Exacerbating the problem are employers that continue to pass over jobless youth, meaning those young applicants acquire fewer skills and are more likely to be passed over in the future.

Recent college grads who are lucky enough to find jobs will likely receive a wage that is 7 to 8 percent lower than the wage offered to someone who graduated during a healthy economic period, the report shows. These workers can expect to be shortchanged during healthy economic periods to the tune of 2.5 percent.