It’s no news to hear that it's hard to find a job these days. What is news is learning who is having the hardest time finding jobs - recent college graduates. The youth unemployment rate today is above 17 percent, and the problem is growing steadily as new graduates fight the recently graduated for a very limited number of jobs.
Along with this phenomenon, there is the inverse problem at the other end of the spectrum - baby boomers who have been hard hit by the financial fall of recent years who do not dare or who cannot afford to stop working. This is what is considered an "upside-down economy."
Since World War II and up until the year 2000, younger Americans have consistently been much more likely to be employed than older Americans. However after 2000 that began to change, reducing the number of employed younger Americans to its lowest levels in more than half a century! In contrast to this, the employment rate for older Americans has actually increased so that now the oldest members of the workforce are almost just as likely to be employed as the youngest.
Although these numbers can be interpreted to mean that there are more young people now in college than there were in the past. It could also mean that more seniors are working because they've had a better education and thus a more interesting career than seniors in the past, but still, money is the major issue for the older population. According to John Rother, Policy Director at AARP, "The resources they were counting on to retire just aren't there."
As a result, economists have coined a new concept: the "idleness rate," and it is rising. This refers to people younger than 24 who are not in school and are not working. Lawrence Katz, a labor economist at Harvard points out that our young people are at risk of becoming a "lost generation."
What can we do? The best remedy for this situation would be quick and healthy job growth. ALlng with this, our educational institutions must see to it that students actually graduate and end up with marketable skills. There will be grave consequences if this younger generation continues to be unable to find gainful employment. Who will fund Social Security and Medicare for them?