We Need to Address Youth Unemployment

A new CAP issue brief illustrates the many costs of the country's high rate of youth unemployment.

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Nearly everyone has struggled in the wake of the Great Recession, but young Americans have suffered the most. While others have slowly returned to work, the unemployment rate for Americans ages 16–24 stands at 16.2 percent, more than double the national rate of unemployment. And even when this group eventually starts earning a paycheck, the impact of their unemployment will follow them for years. According to a new analysis by the Center for American Progress, young Americans will lose a staggering $20 billion in earnings over the next decade.

Research shows that workers who are unemployed as young adults earn lower wages for many years following their period of unemployment due to forgone work experience and missed opportunities to develop skills. Building on this research, we estimate that the nearly 1 million young Americans who experienced long-term unemployment during the worst of the recession will lose more than $20 billion in earnings over the next 10 years. This equates to about $22,000 per person. The economic consequences of these lost wages to individuals and to the broader economy are serious. These young Americans—referred to as Millennials—will increasingly be forced to delay moving out of their parents’ homes, struggle to make payments on ballooning student-loan debt, and fail to save adequately for retirement. As a consequence of the prolonged unemployment of Millennials, the U.S. economy will feel the loss of aggregate demand in the form of slower growth and less job creation.

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