High rate of youth unemployment is drag on US economy
The title of a release from the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth is disturbing: “Crisis in Youth Employment Topic of Latest Kids Count Policy Report.”
Crisis is a word that gets tossed around quite bit. One person’s crisis is another’s inconvenience. It all depends on whose ox is being gored.
Take jobs, for example. If you’ve got one, unemployment figures are of interest. If you’re out of work, those numbers are like a lock on your wallet.
If you don’t think it makes a difference to society as a whole, you’ve not been paying attention to what’s been happening in the Middle East and North Africa. The so-called Arab Spring was largely driven by angry young people without jobs.
A report released Monday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count project states employment of U.S. youth ages 16 to 24 is at its lowest point in 50 years.
The “Youth and Work, Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity” report found that Volunteer State youth have had a tough time finding jobs. Fewer than one in four Tennesseans ages 16 to 19 were working in 2011. Only nine other states had a smaller percentage of youth in this age group employed.
For members of minority groups, the data is even worse. The national percentage of 16-to-19-year-old minorities employed dropped by about half between 2000 and 2011.
According to the Kids Count report, the economic downturn has forced adolescents and young adults to compete for entry-level jobs now held by more experienced, older workers.
Only 60 percent of Tennesseans ages 20 to 24 were employed in 2011. Nationally 4.3 million young adults (20 to 24) were not in school or working. Of these, one in five was a parent.
Projections are that taxpayers will bear a burden of $1.56 trillion as a result of the failure of youth ages 16 to 24 to find work during the recent economic downturn.
The Kids Count report recommends:
• A national youth employment strategy developed by policy makers that streamlines systems and makes financial aid, funding and other support services more accessible and flexible; encourages more businesses to hire young people; and focuses on results, not process;
• Aligning resources within communities and among public and private funders to create collaborative efforts to support youth;
• Exploring new ways to create jobs through social enterprises such as Goodwill and microenterprises, with the support of public and private investors;
• Employer-sponsored earn-and-learn programs that foster the talent and skills that businesses require — and develop the types of employees they need.
Millions of young Americans are looking to their elders to get the nation’s economy righted. They deserve nothing less.