These are not happy days for America’s young and striving, Lizzy Ratner found. Young people have lost 2.5 million jobs to the crisis, making them the hardest-hit age group. If you’re 18 to 35 years old, The Nation wants to know: how has the recession impacted you? Share your story in the form provided here.
When David Thyme was an even younger man than he is today, his fantasies of early adulthood did not include a 9:30 pm curfew and a bed in Covenant House, a shelter for homeless youth. Then again, they also didn’t include a recession so severe that his financially strapped father would ask him to help with rent–or that when he couldn’t find an entry-level job to do so, his father would ask him to leave home. “He was like, Son, you got to do what you got to do. I can’t have you in my house,” recalled the thin-faced 18-year-old from the Bronx.
Shawn Bolden, an earnest 23-year-old from Harlem, also nursed a different vision of his youthful years. A graduate of Monroe College with a degree in criminal justice, he imagined dedicating his days to nurturing the minds of the next generation of neglected students, doing his part to solder shut the school-to-prison pipeline. But since losing his job teaching arts and college prep at a local nonprofit in June, he’s been struggling to find his way back into the classroom, all the while worrying about feeding his newborn daughter.
And then there’s Charles Channon. A 25-year-old graduate of George Washington University, he dreamed that his postcollege days would be devoted to an onward-and-upward career with an international development firm–or at least a job with which to pay off $65,000 in college debt. “I wouldn’t pretend that there’s absolutely no conceit in me, but I do want to get out there and make the best difference I can,” he said.
So much for youthful fantasies.
These are not happy days for America’s young and striving. Indeed, as the economy has rocked and tumbled its way through 2009, spewing jobs like a sea-sick tourist, these have become very, very bad days. In September, the unemployment rate for people between the ages of 16 and 24 hovered morosely at 18.1 percent, nearly double the national average for that month. At the same time, the actual employment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds dropped to a startling 46 percent, the grimmest such figure on record since 1948, the year the government began keeping track. Taken together, this same group of young people has lost more than 2.5 million jobs since the economy began deflating in December 2007, roughly one-third of all the jobs lost, making them the hardest-hit age group of the recession.
And it gets bleaker. Bad as the youth unemployment numbers are, the underemployment numbers are even more distressing, with young people once again taking the hit. During the second quarter of 2009, for instance, the underemployment rate for workers under 25 was an alarming 31.9 percent; for workers between 25 and 34 the underemployment rate was 17.1 percent.