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Lesson Plans

Young People Face Worst Job Market in 50 Years

May 6, 2013

Full Lesson


Young people in the U.S. are experiencing more difficulties starting their careers than at any time in the last 50 years.


This comes despite a Labor Department report showing that the economy added 165,000 jobs last month, primarily in the retail, restaurant and health care industries.  The stronger-than-expected hiring helped reduce the nation’s unemployment rate a modest 0.1 percent to 7.5 percent, the lowest level since December 2008.

While numbers on youth unemployment are disputed, most estimates place it around 16 percent, more than double the national rate. The Wall Street Journal reported that even 16 percent might be understating how bad the problem is, since that doesn’t count young people who have simply stopped looking for work.

Recent graduates are hurting more than other college-educated workers, with only 72 percent of those receiving their degree since 2011 entering the labor force, down from 87 percent twenty years ago. Included in that “employed” category are many young people who are underemployed in part-time work or in jobs that don’t match the quality (and price) of their education.

Since the recession hit in 2008, young workers just entering the workforce have been dubbed “the lost generation.”

Why is work so hard to find for young graduates?

There are many reasons that young people are feeling the squeeze. Experienced workers who have been laid off are now accepting entry-level jobs, many companies have ended training programs and many workers are postponing retirement because their savings took a severe hit.

The retirement age for men climbed from 62 to 64 over the past two decades and the average American now expects to retire at age 67, according to a recent Gallup Poll.

In addition, dramatically changing communication technology has made it hard for some young people to communicate well in interviews with potential employers. According to recruiting firm Adecco, hiring managers are three times more likely to hire a worker that is over 50-years-old than a member of the “millennial” generation, or those born between 1981 and 2000.

The reason? Recruiters say millennials in interviews wear the wrong attire, text their friends, haven’t done their research on the company, are overconfident in their abilities and don’t ask enough questions.

See “How New Grads Can Get in the Door for a Job Interview” for tips on how to get an interview.

Jobs are still out there

Despite the news of doom and gloom, there are still businesses that are hiring, and many of them are in industries tailor-made for younger workers.

According to an IBISWorld study, the fastest-growing industries over the last 10 years are tech and online industries, with social network game development and e-book publishing topping the charts.


Many of these fast-growing industries are dominated by young workers, who grew up playing with computers and surfing the internet.

Some manufacturing jobs are also making a comeback in the U.S., meaning that blue-collar jobs may be opening up for young workers looking to gain work experience and a steady income.