Amid a worsening fiscal crisis, a crumbling economy, and the destruction of over 40% of America’s wealth in just the last few years, it should be quite clear that this is no ordinary recession. In fact, with progressively dwindling job opportunities, a long-term downward trend in real estate prices, and the near doubling of participation in emergency benefits programs like food stamps and disability, one could make the argument that the United States is smack-dab in the middle of the next Great Depression.
The notion that we are potentially facing a decades-long paradigm shift which threatens to alter the very fabric of American life is becoming a stark reality for many, especially America’s younger generations who, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, are experiencing the highest jobless rates since at least World War II:
– Forty years ago, a teenager leaving high school — with or without a diploma — could find a job in a local factory. Twenty years ago, even as manufacturing jobs moved offshore, young people could still gain a foothold in the workforce through neighborhood stores and restaurants. Amid the housing boom of the past decade, youth with some training could find a career track in the construction field. But today — with millions of jobs lost and experienced workers scrambling for every available position — America’s young people stand last in line for jobs.
– Youth employment is at its lowest level since World War II; only about half of young people ages 16 to 24 held jobs in 2011. Among the teens in that group, only 1 in 4 is now employed, compared to 46 percent in 2000.
Overall, 6.5 million people ages 16 to 24 are both out of school and out of work, statistics that suggest dire consequences for financial stability and employment prospects in that population.
More and more doors are closing for these young people. Entry-level jobs at fast-food restaurants and clothing stores that high school dropouts once could depend on to start their careers now go to older workers with better experience and credentials. It often takes a GED to get a job flipping hamburgers. Even some with college degrees are having trouble finding work.
– The employment rate for youth ages 16 to 19 dropped precipitously — down 42 percent since 2000. More youth than ever — 2.2 million teenagers and 4.3 million young adults ages 20 to 24 — are neither in school nor working.
Additionally, 21 percent — 1.4 million — of those young people out of school and out of work are young parents who must take care of their own needs and those of their children.
– In this report, we describe them as disconnected youth. The term encompasses diverse groups, ranging from the 16-year-old who just dropped out of high school and is not working to the 21-year-old parent who has a high school degree and has been looking for work for a long time. They live at home in urban, suburban or rural communities.
The prospects for the Millennial Generation, who once enjoyed the seemingly never ending prosperity of McMansions, high-end technology and brand name apparel provided by their debt-laden parents, are rapidly disappearing.
The most challenging jobs market since the last Great Depression, coupled with an inability to acquire an education and trade skills due to tightened student loan requirements, yields an untenable situation for America’s youth. Combine this with the fact that most of these kids have or will soon be having kids, and you have tens of millions more Americans added to already overburdened government safety nets.
Reality television shows and government education convinced many teens and young adults that they would enjoy a carefree life of riches and luxury.
Never would they have even entertained the idea they would instead be plagued with a lifetime of misery, poverty and government dependence.
It’s a hard-knocks life, and it’s about to get a whole heck of a lot worse for a lot of people.