Monday, March 5, 2012

Young, Jobless, and Deep in Debt

Patrice Hill at The Washington Times has an article to which many readers of Viewpoint will relate:
Nicholas Rastenis has been through the wringer. After getting a master’s degree in fine arts from Yale University in 2008, he expected to land a job at a top design firm. But nearly four years later, after many months of joblessness, austerity and anxiety, his ambitions in life have come down quite a bit.

Today, the Chicago resident toils at a photo lab at a major drugstore chain for $9 an hour and no benefits, using few of his creative design skills and earning only a fraction of what he once thought he could command. Still, he has had some designing gigs on the side, and he is glad to at least have a full-time job — any job — after years of doing without.

Mr. Rastenis, like many others of his generation, is a prime victim of the Great Recession. By most measures, he and his compatriots in their teens, 20s and early 30s bore the brunt of the worst job market in modern times. Even with slow economic improvement in the past two years, these so-called “Millennials” remain unemployed and underemployed at the highest rates of any group.

“It’s been a very hard road,” said Mr. Rastenis, who has taken jobs such as bike-cabbing and waiting tables to make ends meet while trying to land a full-time position in his profession.

“I’m doing things I never thought I’d be doing. I’m starting to question why I went to college. I could have done these jobs out of high school,” he said. “And not having an apartment or anything else … I’m miserable.”

Mr. Rastenis knows he’s not alone. It seems nearly everyone he knows in his age group is facing similar problems. “Nobody in the age range 20 to 35 are where they want to be right now,” he said.

Federal statistics as well as various opinion polls and studies bear him out. Joblessness among Americans ages 18 to 29, the Millennials, is at the highest levels since the U.S. Labor Department started keeping records.

The 15.8 percent unemployment rate for this group is nearly twice the national average. For those ages 16 to 19, the jobless rate is closer to 25 percent, and even for people 29 to 34, it’s closer to 10 percent — well above the 8.3 percent national unemployment rate.

The unemployment statistics represents only the tip of the iceberg. Millions of young people have delayed entering the workforce by staying in school, or they stopped looking for work so they aren’t included in the unemployment statistics. Millions of others have accepted short-term or seasonal work without benefits, and some are working without pay in hopes that it will land them a job.

The woes in the job market have fed an ocean of other heartaches and difficulties, including postponed marriages and childbearing, homelessness and having to live for years with parents who expected to be moving toward empty nests and retirement. A poll last year by Generation Opportunity, a Millennial group, found that 77 percent of Millennials are postponing major life changes, such as buying a home, getting married, starting a family and paying off student loans, because they can’t find good jobs.
There's much more on this at the link. The article doesn't mention it, but there seem to be two diametrically opposed sets of needs in play. In order to solve the social security problem we'll almost certainly have to raise the age of full retirement which means that older Americans will be holding onto their jobs longer at the very time when younger Americans need those jobs to open up so that they have a chance at them.

Also, in the past many employment opportunities were available in the public sector, but with state, local, and federal governments all cinching their belts, a lot of those have dried up and those there are are filled by people who aren't going to be willing to leave them in the current climate.

Our local school district, for example, is hiring only one new teacher for every two, or even three, retirees. The president, meanwhile, has proposed that the military cut troop levels by tens of thousands, which will make it tough for the young unemployed to use the service as a fallback as they often did in the past.

Add to these woes climbing gas prices and the prospect of much higher taxes when Obamacare kicks in, both of which dampen any enthusiasm businesses might have to expand their workforces, and, all in all, it's a tough time to be a young person.