This website is no longer actively maintained
Some material and features may be unavailable

The young and the jobless

In the March 2010 issue of The Atlantic, Don Peck wrote a cover story, “How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America,” about how prolonged high unemployment, especially among younger Americans, may change the entire character of a generation. Peck, an editor at The Atlantic and a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, writes about how negative economic forces “can leave deep marks that endure long after boom times have returned.” And the effects are not just economic: This era of high joblessness  “is likely to warp our politics, our culture, and the character of our society for years.” Peck is currently working to expand his article into a book.

Need to Know sat down with Peck in his Washington, D.C., office to discuss the long-term effects of joblessness among America’s millennials.

This interview is part of a larger look at how the economic downturn is affecting young workers; “Generation Jobless” will air on Friday, Oct. 8, 2010.

  • thumb
    Main Street: Findlay, Ohio
    Need to Know travels to Ohio to assess how workers are faring after the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs over the past 35 years.
  • thumb
    Following the money: Tax breaks
    New CBO report echoes the findings of Need to Know's "A tale or four tax returns."
  • thumb
      Certifiably employable
    Rick Karr recently visited Seattle to look at a program designed to give the unemployed the skills they need to find jobs in one of the country’s fastest-growing industries.


  • mc

    The young and the jobless? Sounds like soap opera!
    A recent Technical graduate was looking for work as a Junior Engineer (JE). I thought he got it.
    After some months, I saw him again. He said he is still a JE but with a different meaning.
    JE = Jobless Engineer.
    It is very clear that earning a college degree alone is no guarantee for jobs.
    Americans should learn to be flexible in a tough economy. That is the only way to survive today.
    And the culture is also slowly changing due to the current economy. To save money, many sons and daughters move in with their parents. That is the real America.

  • S.A.

    As someone who is graduating this year with a degree, I can say that one thing college doesn’t seem to be preparing people for is actual work skills. Sure, the theoretical stuff is fine but what about gaining actual skills? Or how about actually being open to gaining flexible and cross-applicable skills? Most people who are 21-22 think “ugh!” and groan when I mention to them that their first job won’t be a true reflection of what they went to school for. But big deal! What is worse– having that, or not having a job? In a way, I’m glad I’m a little older than most college students because I’ve got more than 5 years of work experience on my resume in addition to an upcoming degree.

  • Barbara Gramenos

    My husband and I (soon hitting 70 yrs.old) would like to thank you for this excellent piece of journalism on those who are out of work. Watching it we realized how very lucky we were to get out of the work force, with retirement savings intact, when we did. What we did was not just making the right decisions at the right time; it was pure luck. All of these people who are unemployed — the couple in their 50′s/early 60′s who may never work again, the just graduated who have to move back in with mom and dad, everyone you showed — could have been us. And as Robert Reich said, if we don’t start taking seriously making a better safety net for hard times, we will have learned nothing from this recession. It was an excellent look at the real ravages ordinary people face who did everything right but were still caught up in the national catastrophe. Those of us who avoided the hard times should be mindful that it is mainly the luck of the draw — and we are not any better than these folks who were caught up in it.

  • Anonymus

    Maybe Obama should try what Bill Clinton’s spin doctors did – tell the public relations staff to spread the word that the economy IS picking up and jobs ARE opening. People like to hear good news (not gloom & doom).

    The worst offenders are companies who inform HR to “out-source recruiters.” Recruiters are employment-executors (select, interview, and sometimes hire (on be-half of company)); however, that same company WILL NOT hire them. Many recruiters lack the experience, captive insight, maturity, and sensivity to the plight of the unemployed and those who possess talents, gifts, and ability to accomplish any “given” job – regardless of age. Recruiters have god-complex..

  • mc

    I think the last night election results clearly indicated what the American People want to see that happen. This time the voters spoke loud and clear
    It does not matter whether the candidate is a Democrat or Republican; once elected to office, he or she is obligated to fulfill his or her duties.
    Mere sweet talk and creamy words do not work.
    The politicians have to learn a lot from this election. Spending unlimited
    amount of money toward election does not work either. That money could be well-spent on education and creating jobs or constructing hospitals.

    They (American Government) bailed out the failed financial institutions such as Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, Citibank, Wells Fargo Bank, Bank of America- by giving them $30 Billion from the Tax Payers’ money but did not help any genuine unemployed American Taxpayers to find jobs or improve his or her life style. Unemployment Allowance is very small when compared to the huge Bailouts the banks received from the Taxpayers.

    When the economy is extremely bad like this, voters do not care about who the candidate is and what the candidate stands for. When the Basic Needs such as Food, Shelter, and Clothing are threatened, any average voter would think about getting the basic needs first.
    It is just common sense.
    When somebody is thirsty, we must get water or some cold juice right away to satisfy the thirst.
    It is too late to think about digging a well. That is exactly what happened in the last night.

    Nobody cares what the candidates can do in 2012 or later but what the candidate can do now,
    at this moment, matters most.

    It reminds me of the famous quote from JFK which can be modified to read:

    Ask not what the people can do for the candidates;
    ask what the candidates can do for the American People.