Monday, May 06, 2013

Jobless Young Americans

The Republicans love to look down on "old Europe" and describe it as socialist and any number of other things.  Yet ironically, they want to follow the same path of austerity that has failed to revive dragging economic growth both in the United Kingdom and on the continent.  It's clearly a case of demeaning Europe while refusing to grasp that austerity and budget cuts in the face of struggling economies doesn't work.   Another favorite GOP tactic is to focus on European unemployment levels and preen about American superiority.  But the truth is that now, unemployed American youths are more plentiful than is the case with their European counterparts in Europe's largest economies.  An article in the New York Times looks at this reality.  Here are excerpts:

THE idle young European, stranded without work by the Continent’s dysfunction, is one of the global economy’s stock characters. Yet it might be time to add another, even more common protagonist: the idle young American. 

For all of Europe’s troubles — a left-right combination of sclerotic labor markets and austerity — the United States has quietly surpassed much of Europe in the percentage of young adults without jobs. It’s not just Europe, either. Over the last 12 years, the United States has gone from having the highest share of employed 25- to 34-year-olds among large, wealthy economies to having among the lowest. 

The grim shift — “a historic turnaround,” says Robert A. Moffitt, a Johns Hopkins University economist — stems from two under appreciated aspects of our long economic slump. First, it has exacted the harshest toll on the young — even harsher than on people in their 50s and 60s, who have also suffered. And while the American economy has come back more robustly than some of its global rivals in terms of overall production, the recovery has been strangely light on new jobs, even after Friday’s better-than-expected unemployment report. American companies are doing more with less.

Employers are particularly reluctant to add new workers — and have been for much of the last 12 years. Layoffs have been subdued, with the exception of the worst months of the financial crisis, but so has the creation of jobs, and no one depends on new jobs as much as younger workers do. For them, the Great Recession grinds on.   

The net worth of households headed by people 44 and younger has dropped more over the past decade than the net worth of middle-aged and elderly households, according to the Federal Reserve. According to the Labor Department, workers 25 to 34 years old are the only age group with lower average wages in early 2013 than in 2000. 

The problems start with a lack of jobs.   .   .   .   .    But there are obvious suspects, and each probably plays a role. 

The United States, for example, has lost its once-large lead in producing college graduates, and education remains the most successful jobs strategy in a globalized, technology-heavy economy. It is no accident that the most educated places in the country, like Boston, Minneapolis, Washington and Austin, Tex., have high employment rates while the least educated, including many in the South and inland California, have low ones.

Beyond education, the nation has also been less aggressive than some others in using counseling and retraining to help the jobless find work.

Other research notes that the United States has expanded parental leave and part-time work less than other countries — and, perhaps relatedly, employment rates among women here have slipped.

the most remarkable aspect of the jobs slump is that the Americans in their 20s and 30s who have been most affected by it remain decidedly upbeat. They are much more hopeful than older generations, polls show, that the country’s future will be better than its past.  Based on what younger adults have been through, that resilience is impressive. It’s probably necessary, too. The jobs slump will not end without a large dose of optimism. 

American hubris and the far rights view that countless Americans are simply a disposable commodity continue to sicken me.  If one cannot learn from the mistakes of others or see our common humanity, it does not bode well for the future.

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