With 1 Out Of 6 Millennials Jobless, Here is How We Create Opportunity For This Generation

Every Number's Day, we are reminded of the awful unemployment situation millennials face. Last week saw another bad statistic for January, with youth unemployment reaching an astounding 13.1%. 

To summarize quickly for you, that's the percentage of young people who are officially counted as jobless by the Department of Labor. But, if you count those of us who have actually given up looking for work because it's so bad out there, the effective unemployment rate for 18-29 year olds is 16.2%, according to Generation Opportunity's Millennial Jobs Report. This means that about 1 out of every 6 of us did not get up and go to work today.

Frankly, even this number is likely low. If you worked just a day in January and you got paid – no matter where you worked, what you did, or how little you earned – you were counted as employed. Part-time jobs are a part of this calculation, too. That's right, it all counts. So, common sense tells us this number is actually much higher.

For those that do have a job, millions of us are "underemployed." In other words, many young people are taking jobs just to get by, even if it is below our education and skill levels or not in the field of our choosing.

Simply put, let's say you went to college, worked hard, got good grades, did everything you should do, and graduated. In the past, this meant that it would not be long before you would likely find a job in your chosen career path. And not just a job, but a good job. A job that paid well enough so you could get that first apartment, buy a car, pay off your student loans, and get started in life. Today, Rutgers tells us that half of recent college grads are either unemployed or underemployed. Further, Generation Opportunity's polling found that 84% of us are delaying and putting off major life decisions like getting married and beginning a family due to the poor economy.

We at Generation Opportunity asked young people to tell us about this on one of our Facebook pages – Being American by GO – because we know these young people are not just a statistic, but real people with hopes and dreams just like the rest of us. 

Here are some of the things we have seen so far ….

1. Andrea Long Thompson: I've applied to over 300 jobs in the past 2 years here in North Florida ... and well still no job! I did however get ONE of those ... it was at Target working 12 hours per week and making about $90 and my childcare costs were around $125 a week for 2 kids ... so yeah that didn't last past the first day of work I told them either I get more hours or they just lost a new hire! I walked out and never looked back! I would have LOST money working there with daycare and not only that the job was hour drive from my house!

2. Tay Lore: I've been looking for a job since I graduated with a Bachelor's degree in July of 2011. Lots of pizza jobs, none in my related field. FML. Oh, and I forgot to mention I'm trying to pay back THOUSANDS of dollars worth of student loans making minimum wage. At this rate I am only paying interest and just a fraction of my actual loan.

3. Daniel Norsworthy It stinks! I got separated from the U.S. Navy last November, and since then, I have not been able to find a job anywhere! I tried Job Corps, but they aren't taking anyone in until July due to financial problems, so now I don't even know what to do. Being 19 years old still living with parents, it's crazy. I wanted to be out on my own by now making something of myself..

These stories are just heartbreaking. That’s why we must do something to change it.

President Obama told us in his second inaugural speech that America should be "investing in the generation that will build its future." We could not agree more. The question is, how do you invest in a way that works and will achieve results? If you are stuck in a bad investment, should you double down or should you rethink your strategy and take a different approach?

Look, our generation isn't stupid. We understand what’s going on. The government-driven approach to job creation over the last four years just hasn’t worked and, instead, has left us with record youth unemployment and an economy that is literally shrinking. With 7 out of 8 jobs coming out of the private sector, we need a new strategy that encourages the private sector to grow, invest, and provide real opportunities for the millions of young people who have great skills, are ready to contribute, and have waited long enough for a quality job and chance at the American Dream.

Unfortunately, in our national Generation Opportunity poll, only 38% of millennials believe today’s political leaders reflect the interests of young people. That makes sense since they haven't moved the needle on youth unemployment in four years. 

But if they did listen to us, they would see what we think is needed to help us finally start our careers.

Here are three ways to help provide economic opportunity for young people, straight from the horses’ mouths …

1. 69% of millennials agree with the statement “if taxes on business profits were reduced, companies would be more likely to hire.” Time to lower those. Leaders should look for ways – not gimmicks, but real solutions – to lower taxes on business so they can hire us. 

2. 65% of millennials agree with the statement “the economy grows best when individuals are allowed to create businesses without government interference.” Leaders need to look at the regulatory burden they have imposed on business and find ways to make life easier for people that hire and want to start their own business. 

3. 61% of millennials would decrease taxes on individuals if given the opportunity to set America’s fiscal priorities. Only 30% would increase taxes. That's right – leave us with more of what little money we have. After all, it’s our money.

This should not be that difficult to implement. We have done it before with great success. But what actually works in the real world seems to be lost in Washington, D.C.

It's time for a reality check. Otherwise, we can look forward to four more years of missed opportunity.