Real Unemployment Rate: For Millennials It Pushes 17 Percent, But Obama and Romney Prefer to Fight Over Big Bird

Congratulations, President Obama, you’ve just seen the national unemployment rate drop in the United States to match the lowest point in unemployment since you took office.

On Friday morning the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its September jobs report, which indicated the (U-3) unemployment rate fell last month to 7.8%, down from 8.1% in August, as non-farm payrolls added 114,000 jobs. This is a good sign for the incumbent president, who is looking to bolster his re-election odds by pointing out that the economy is improving. More so, it bodes well for the American economy, which will likely take the BLS report as a sign that the U.S. financial situation is improving after the 2008 meltdown and subsequent Great Recession.

But not all Americans can say that they are starting to see the storm clouds clear. According to new data, the millennial voting bloc is still experiencing record rates of unemployment, pushing 12%. When “real unemployment” is factored in, that number jumps to 16.6%.


Millennials — those people aged under 30 — are a critical voting bloc (remember when we won you the 2008 election, Obama?) that have been under-serviced by both candidates in election 2012. More so, the fact that millennials are failing to find employment in the economy is a troubling sign to could point to longer-term economic and social problems for America.

But both campaigns don't seem to be noticing the millennial plight.

The Obama campaign is gloating over the BLS jobs report. The 7.8% figure reflects the percentage of the total workforce who are unemployed and are actively looking for work. This figure does not include unemployed members of the workforce who are not actively looking for work; nor does it factor in workers with part-time jobs who are seeking full-time employment. When these workers are included, the (U-6) un/underemployment rate for September remained at 14.7% as it had been in August. 

The report came less than 48 hours after Obama turned in a lackluster performance against Republican rival Mitt Romney, who has criticized Obama for presiding over a sluggish recovery with unemployment above 8%.

The jobs numbers will likely be used by the Obama camp as a rallying cry for the next four weeks of the election — especially since the economy is issue #1 in 2012.

But millennials seems to be left in the dust here.

According to Generation Opportunity, the largest non-profit, “non-partisan” (the org does lean to the right) organization engaging and mobilizing young Americans on the important economic issues facing the nation, the non-seasonally adjusted (NSA) 18-29 unemployment rate data for September 2012 is shocking:

The youth unemployment rate for 18-29 year olds specifically for September 2012 is 11.8%.

The youth unemployment rate for 18-29 year old African-Americans for September 2012 is 21%; the youth unemployment rate for 18-29 year old Hispanics for September 2012 is 12.1%; and the youth unemployment rate for 18–29 year old women for September 2012 is 11.6%.

The declining labor force participation rate has created an additional 1.7 million young adults that are not counted as "unemployed" by the U.S. Department of Labor because they are not in the labor force, meaning that those young people have given up looking for work due to the lack of jobs.

If the labor force participation rate (“real unemployment”) were factored into the 18-29 youth unemployment calculation, the actual 18-29-unemployment rate would rise to 16.6%. Real unemployment implies a measure that includes under-employed and discouraged (not looking for jobs) workers.

Still, even with these high numbers, both candidates in this election have only seldom talked about issues that matter to millennials.

Both candidates’ jobs plans do not necessarily focus on millennials, and neither candidate is directly talking about how to end youth unemployment.

Millennial unemployment should be considered a big red flag: if young people remain out of work, long-term social and economic problems could be seen in the United States.

The millennial generation is the “generation of tomorrow,” the foundation of the future American economy. Yet young people are not able to enter into jobs which give them the skills which will help them down the road. High rates of youth unemployment create a “lost generation” of unskilled or under-skilled workers who must overcome competition from workers older and younger than them when the economy stabilizes.

Young people — a top spending demographic in the U.S. economy — are also cutting back on their spending habits. The GO survey outlines that 89% of young people say the current state of the economy is impacting their day-to-day lives:

  • 51% reduced their entertainment budget;
  • 43% reduced their grocery/food budget;
  • 43% cut back on gifts for friends and family;
  • 40% skipped a vacation;
  • 38% driven less;
  • 36% taken active steps to reduce home energy costs;
  • 32% tried to find an additional job;
  • 27% sold personal items or property (cars, electronic appliances, or other possessions);
  • 26% changed their living situation (moved in with family, taken extra roommates, downgraded apartment or home);
  • 17% skipped a wedding, family reunion, or other significant social event;
  • 1% other;
  • 8% none of the above (accepted only this response);
  • 3% do not know/cannot judge (accepted only this response).

From a social standpoint, large amounts of out-of-work young people can see their participation in crime and illegal activity jump. In more extreme cases, there can also be social unrests, similar to the youth riots that occurred in London in 2011. Depression and anxiety levels can all rise in this demographic.

Sure these are horror stories, and there are plenty of examples of young people entering into the workforce and seeing success, especially in the start-up arena (Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is 28, and has built a social media economic bubble that is helping rejuvenate the economy).

Still candidates have mostly ignored millennials plight. That may be because they take this voting bloc for granted: the generation gap remains wide in election 2012, as Obama leads by double digits among those under 40 ... Romney leads by double digits among those over 40.

Obama and Romney are constantly seeking out the Latino vote, or the swing state vote, or the independent vote, or the working class vote.

.... The candidates seem to want to take more about Big Bird than young people (hmmm).

But Obama and Romney take note: Left un-checked, millennial unemployment could very much turn into a much more dire situation.

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