The Department of Labor released the latest unemployment numbers today, showing serious progress has been made. However, the recovery has still failed to pull our generation out of a very deep hole. The economy added 236,000 jobs as the national unemployment rate fell from 7.9% in January to 7.7% in February. Millennial unemployment (ages 18 to 29) dropped from 13.1% in January to 12.5% in February. Unemployment for younger adults ages 16 to 24 sits at 16.3%, still well over twice the national average.
You’d think that given the scale of the problem and potential consequences for the future that our leaders in Washington would scramble to get our generation back on track. Instead, they are actively creating more barriers between our generation and the promise of economic opportunity.
Last week automatic across-the-board cuts to the federal budget known as “sequestration” began to take effect. The changes will indiscriminately slash funding for anything from student aid to the Center for Disease control. No priorities — just one big axe to some of our nation’s most important investments.
Sound like a bad idea? It is. Congress created sequestration thinking that the consequences would be so bad, it would force both parties to agree on a sensible alternative to reduce the deficit over the long term. Apparently, even the threat of slowing the economic recovery isn’t incentive enough. Here’s how our generation will pay the price in the coming months:
Despite the fact that almost 4.5 million millennials are out of work, employment and training services for young Americans will take a major hit. We’ve already cut $1 billion from training programs for young Americans over the last decade. At a time when the economy demands a skilled workforce, more cuts take us in the wrong direction.
Additionally, college will be more expensive next year for students and families. The $86 million cut to student aid will mean that 70,000 fewer students will receive grants or Federal Work Study and grant aid next year. These cuts fall hardest on students in need.
National service also faces a trimming. Last year AmeriCorps received over half a million applications (the majority of them millennials) to serve communities across the nation. Participants do everything from build homes with Habitat for Humanity to tutor disadvantaged elementary school youth through City Year. Investments in these national service initiatives can pay off two dollars for every dollar invested and provide valuable job experience to millennials. Yet we’ve already cut $30 million from national service in the last two years with more to come through sequester.
If this strikes you as absurd, then we’re on the same page. Cutting investments in the economic future of our country at a time when we need to get our generation back on track just doesn’t make sense. Join us at Young Invincibles to tell Washington to do better!
Co-authored with Brian Burrell. Follow us on Twitter @YI_Care and visit our website at www.younginvincibles.org.