In June 2009, the U.S. economy stopped its downward slide and began expanding, effectively ending the “Great Recession.” But with meager expansion of the U.S. economy over the past five years, young people and recent college graduates looking to enter the workforce are increasingly disadvantaged.
These were among the issues raised in a recent paper by the Economic Policy Institute, which sought to measure the disproportionately disadvantaged situation recent college graduates are in due to the economic downturn. Importantly, the study notes there is nothing specifically linked to the Great Recession that puts young people at a disproportionately high disadvantage in today’s job market. Rather, the study explains, young people always suffer special difficulty during periods of economic downturn. The “Great Recession” happens to have had an extremely harsh effect on the young because of its length and the anemic economic recovery in the aftermath.
The study reads: “Unemployment of young graduates is extremely high today not because of something unique about the Great Recession and its aftermath that has affected young people in particular. Rather, it is high because young workers always experience disproportionate increases in unemployment during periods of labor market weakness—and the Great Recession and its aftermath is the longest, most severe period of economic weakness in more than seven decades.”
Furthermore, the number of unemployed and underemployed young people has decreased since the recession ended, but has not returned to pre-recession levels. “For young college graduates, the unemployment rate is currently 8.5 percent (compared with 5.5 percent in 2007), and the underemployment rate is 16.8 percent (compared with 9.6 percent in 2007),” the study notes. These numbers for high school graduates further increase: “For young high school graduates, the unemployment rate is 22.9 percent (compared with 15.9 percent in 2007), and the underemployment rate is 41.5 percent (compared with 26.8 percent in 2007).”