CASPER — The recession has hit young workers particularly hard, a Washington, D.C., think tank asserts.
The Economic Policy Institute says the unemployment rate among young workers has increased by more than 7.4 percentage points since the downturn began in December 2007, compared to a 4.7 percentage point increase for the work force overall.
The unemployment rate among workers ages 16 to 24 hit a record-high of 19.2 percent in September 2009, up from 11.8 percent in December 2007.
Young workers in March accounted for 26.4 percent of all unemployed workers in the U.S. but were only 13.5 percent of the labor force. The labor force comprises both employed workers and unemployed workers seeking work.
In a report, “The Kids Aren’t Alright,” the group found that young people face particular challenges when seeking employment, including no prior work history. Many young people also lack personal savings to tide themselves over and do not qualify for unemployment insurance.
In addition, young workers may be forced to accept jobs at wages that are not in accordance with their skills or training. The report notes that past research has shown how such mismatching can result in lower lifetime earnings.
Among young workers, some groups fare better than others.
Young men had an unemployment rate 7.5 percentage points higher than young women.
Young black workers face an unemployment rate of 32.5 percent, the report said, which compares to 15.2 percent for young white workers.
The report notes that increases in high school and college enrollments don’t explain away a drop in the size of the youth labor force. In the first two years of the recession, enrollments by people ages 16 to 24 in high school or college increased by 861,000, while the labor force of people the same ages declined by 1.5 million. The report also points out that enrolled students can and often do participate in the labor force.
The Employment Policies Institute said that in March, of more than 1.4 million unemployed workers ages 16 to 19, about 31 percent had been jobless for 27 weeks or more, while more than 70 percent had been out of work for more than five weeks.