Gone Missing: The American Dream

By Brian Burrell and Rory O’Sullivan

The official jobs numbers came out this morning showing that the economy added a disappointing 88,000 jobs and unemployment fell slightly in March to 7.6% from 7.7% in February. Millennials, age 18-to-29, saw their unemployment rate fall as well, from 12.4% last month to 11.7% in March (not seasonally adjusted). However, the actual news is much worse than it appears. The decline in unemployment largely reflected a drop in job prospects as many younger workers simply left the labor force.

In other words, our generation has a long way to go. Unemployment for the youngest workers ages 16 to 24 remains twice the national average. Moreover, recent economic news highlights a worrying trend: depressed wages, decreased job opportunities, and higher unemployment, and a generation with less wealth than their parents at the same age. The massive recent cuts to education and job training included as part of the sequester will, of course, only make the problem worse.

Declining Wealth

A recent report by the Urban Institute found that GenY has less wealth than their parents did at the same age. High youth unemployment surely contributes to this trend. Further, adjusted for inflation, median wages fell by over $2,000 for 25-34 year olds since 1974, despite rapidly increasing student debt and living costs. 

The paltry wealth accumulation for millennials is disturbing, as average household wealth has doubled for America as a whole. Again, our generation appears to have been left behind. Decreased wealth isn’t just bad for our generation though. America could see slowed economic growth, increased economic uncertainty, and decreased entrepreneurial activity because less people are saving money. It’s no wonder nearly half of our generation fears that they will be less well off than their parents.

A National Youth Jobs Campaign

There is a way forward. To put youth unemployment on the public agenda and push for real solutions, Young Invincibles (YI) launched a campaign this month to Get the Facts about youth employment. We’ll be releasing reports on youth unemployment in all 50 states. We’ll also be doing a National Youth Jobs Tour to visit effective youth job training programs in 15 communities that are giving young workers the skills they need to be successful in the 21st century economy. This fall, YI will also release a series of detailed policy proposals on ways to create more youth jobs, expand programs that work, and support new, innovative models for economic development. Follow along to see if YI will be visiting your community and help us share the facts on youth unemployment!

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Rory O'Sullivan

Rory is the Policy Director at Young Invincibles where he oversees the organization’s policy and advocacy work. He is an expert in economic, higher education, and health care policy as they relate to young adults. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, ABC News Online, Yahoo News, the LA Times, and the Christian Science Monitor among others. Before moving to Washington D.C. for graduate school, Rory worked for a law firm and state senate campaign in his home-town of San Francisco. He graduated from Pomona College in 2006 with a B.A. in Philosophy Politics, and Economics, and he completed a joint J.D./M.P.P. in 2011 at Georgetown University.

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