Despite the overall decline in the unemployment rate and the
relatively bullish trend of
markets and GDP growth, some demographics in the U.S. find
themselves stagnating today. Job seekers aged 16 to 24 - often
labelled the "Millennial" generation - find themselves trapped by
unemployment rates twice as high as the national average.
True, improvement can be detected in all sectors of the economy. At
the peak of the
unemployment stood just shy of 20 percent for this group, compared
to nearly 10 percent for the broader population. However, data from
Economic Policy Institute
show that the Millennials' unemployment rate now stands at 16
The EPI cites a study from Labour
which found that prolonged unemployment has a deep and pernicious
effect on the lifelong
and career prospects of young workers - by losing out on early job
opportunities, these workers don't get the chances to build
professional skills, connections and salary increases that their
more fortunate brethren receive.
Another problem - widely covered by anxious trend pieces in
The New York Times
The Wall Street Journal
- arises when these young workers, trapped by their part-time
or non-existent jobs, wind up staying with parents and relatives
for increasingly long stretches. They don't spend on houses,
apartments or furniture, save on utilities and can't stimulate
general demand for consumer goods, which only exacerbates the
problems. Though the popular image of the young jobless is that of
a feckless philosophy or art history major stuck with huge debts
and no prospects in a rarefied academic field, unemployment is
actually far worse for the working class. While the young
white-collar unemployed can often find some work through their
networks and can rely on wealthier parents, the working class youth
face far stiffer challenges.
The drug crisis, social malaise and crime rates of both the inner
cities and deeply rural areas tie back to the loss of economic
opportunity on the lower rungs of the working ladder, as factory
jobs go overseas or, more commonly, are automated out of existence.
Manufacturing work disappears and is replaced, if at all, by more
tenuous service jobs at the likes of Wal-Mart (
) and McDonalds (
). Compared to the prospect of minimum wages, high-deductible
(if any at all), part-time work and "at-will" employment, hustling
on the criminal fringe has its incentives.
Young or old, most Americans are struggling to make ends meet.
reported a new study from the Food Research and Action
Center found that one-fifth of all Americans struggled to find
the money to buy food for their families last year, part of an
overall 30 percent increase in food insecurity.
The difficulties have even extended to Wall Street, where the New
York financial elite are seeing bonus payments drop by about 15
percent as bank profits fell 51 percent last year. Max Abelson of
interviewed some of the struggling 1 percenters, and got what may
be the financiers' money quote of the year.
"Wow, did I waste a lot of money," CMF Partners managing
partner Daniel Arbeeny told Abelson as he searched for $5.99
discount salmon steaks in Red Hook, Brooklyn.