News Column

Younger Workers Facing Uncertain Economy

Oct. 22, 2012

Burton Speakman

Young workers are facing a job market where older workers are staying in their positions and taking pay cuts to do so, and uncertain economic conditions have companies concerned about creating entry-level positions.

The uncertain retirement trend and loss of retirement income because of the economic collapse have led more older workers to keep their jobs, said Paul T. Conway, president of Generation Opportunity, the nation's largest organization advocating for young adults. "The tax situation has made companies afraid to hire entry-level workers," he said.

Entry-level workers are the most expensive to hire, not because of their salary, because of the time spent training them, Conway said.

As the national unemployment rate remained at 8.1 percent for August, those between ages 18 to 29 struggled finding work with an unemployment rate of 12.7 percent, according to figures from Generation Opportunity.

If the labor-force participation rate were factored into the 18- to 29-year-old unemployment calculation, the actual 18-29-unemployment rate would rise to 16.7 percent.

The organization further cites figures of an unemployment rate of 22.4 percent for blacks, 13.7 percent for Hispanics and 12.6 percent for women between 18 and 29.

The figures, unlike the state and national unemployment data, are not seasonally adjusted.

The declining labor participation rate has created an additional 1.715 million young adults who are not counted as "unemployed" by the U.S. Department of Labor because they are not in the labor force, meaning that those young people have given up looking for work due to the lack of jobs, according to Generation Opportunity.

A Rutgers University study shows as many as 50 percent of young people are under-employed, Conway said.

"A lot of people with master's or law degrees are taking entry-level jobs just to keep things moving and gain experience," he said. "For employers today, it's your market."

This has become a nationwide problem, and politicians need to develop ways to encourage companies to create entry-level jobs, Conway said, adding that this age group is talented and experienced in processing a lot of information.

"This is a generation that has been undersold. There are people on TV who have called them lazy and out of touch," he said. "This is a generation that saw Sept. 11 and enlisted, that has fought two wars. They went through [Hurricane] Katrina and volunteered to rebuild houses."

Although the results of the youth unemployment study are valid, every age group has had more difficulty finding jobs in the current economy, said George Zeller, a Cleveland-based economist.

It's unclear if its worse for the 18-29 demographic compared with other age groups.

"Youths are having a hard time finding a job, and if they do find a job, it's challenging to find one that pays enough to pay off the debt they generated [attending college] and to support themselves," he said. One of the biggest issues facing youths today is they are taking on more debt to get a college degree and coming into an economy where wages are being cut across all industries, Zeller said.

In addition, the 18-29 demographic has always had higher unemployment rates than other age groups, said Tod Porter, professor of economics at Youngstown State University.

"The primary reason is that they are making a lot of movements in and out of the labor market and frequently switch jobs. That results in more time periods in which they are looking for work and therefore are counted as unemployed more frequently," he said.



Source: (c)2012 Vindicator (Youngstown, Ohio). Distributed by MCT Information Services.


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