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The economy is great, now where's my job?

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Newspapers and TV are ubiquitous with news about America’s good economic performance … an increase in GDP of 4.1% in the 3rd quarter 2013 versus 2nd quarter.

The oil and gas industry took some credit for the good performance in that it generated one billion dollars a day in new energy supplies. Also, economists credited the 2% increase in consumer spending, even though personal income grew less than 1%. Additionally touted, was a 2.8% jump in government outlays for social benefits which boosted the flow and redistribution of money into the economy.

So, with all of the upbeat economic news, many now suppose the country has pretty much recovered from recession and goes comfortably forward into the New Year. However, contrary to the truth of this belief is the fact that America’s young adults, especially those 16 to 19 years of age, still suffer the pain of unemployment.

Although their jobless rate dropped slightly to 20.8% in 2013 from 23.6% in 2012,[1] there are still 1.2 million young men and women 16 to 19 years of age out of work, and urgently looking for a decent job. Many of them seeking employment for the first time in their lives.[2]

Unfortunately, the pain of joblessness may not go away soon. It may even get worse, unless there’s a solid, meaningful and lasting economic recovery, particularly in America’s durable goods industries. Also needed is a reversal of the country’s negative foreign trade balance, which continues to drag down the economy.

The Champagne toast to a 4.1% increase in GDP was largely sterile of a cheer to job creation. The GDP bump-up was triggered by business inventory build-up, increased commercial investment, and more spending in federal, state and local government programs.[3] Unfortunately, those components of GDP are only marginally effective in creating employment.

On the other hand, jobs flower when GDP is driven by expanded output, technology, and productivity in manufacturing, assembling and processing industries. Besides, added jobs are spawned from complement services, like marketing and distribution.

The problem facing America’s unemployed youth is not just the size of GDP, but the lack of job creating components within the GDP number. Additionally, young adults are confronted with overwhelming job competition from thousands of high school and college students yet to graduate. These freshly educated young adults are not likely to be fully absorbed by the meager job opportunities proffered in a currently astatic economy. To illustrate:

The Department of Commerce reports there were 9.6 million students between the ages16 and 19 years enrolled in high schools across the country in 2009.[4] There were also 12.6 million between the ages of 18 and 24 enrolled in colleges. Combined, that’s a potential work force of over 22 million job seekers available to enter the marketplace.

Of course, they won’t appear at the same time. But, in cycles of graduation, of say four or six years, there would be roughly 3.5 to 5.5 million newly minted job applicants per year competing for jobs with those already certified as unemployed young adults; thus creating a virtual explosion in unemployed youths.

Therefore, the question that needs to be asked repeatedly of our politicians and other government officials is: Where are the jobs for America’s young adults now and the future? That’s a very important question, not just for 22 million students enrolled in high schools and colleges, but also their parents.

Thanks for reading


[1] Bureau of Labor Statistics data Nov. 2013 (latest)

[2] U.S. Department of Commerce

[3] Bureau of Economic Analysis

[4] Latest available data

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