In Our View: The Young & the Jobless
Economic crisis is even tougher for workers 25 and younger
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
If you are between 15 and 25 years of age — or if your children are in that group — it’s time for a talk, because times have changed.
Our advice to young people is blunt: If you can’t heed your parents’ warning that this economic crisis is more challenging for you than it is for other adults, then at least read the cold, hard facts in the rest of this editorial and think seriously about your future.
And our advice to parents is equally harsh: Despite your (and your children’s) best intentions, their ability to help pay for college, or their opportunity to enter the workforce after high school, could be dramatically different than you envisioned a few years ago.
Yes, it’s time for a talk. Our greater advice to both groups is to sit down together and review the following information from Aaron Corvin’s story in Sunday’s Columbian:
■ The national and state unemployment rates each are about 8.2 percent, and there’s little sign of dramatic improvement anytime soon. For young people, though, it’s much worse. Nationally, unemployment is 13.2 percent in the 20-24 age group. Statewide, it was 21 percent in 2011, soaring from 11.8 percent four years earlier.
■ Locally, the outlook is even more distressing. Unemployment data for counties are not compiled, but the state Employment Security Department reports a whopping 40 percent decrease in jobs held by Clark County high-schoolers in the past two years.
■ What about young people just out of high school? It’s almost as discouraging. In the 19-21 age group, Clark County had 11 percent fewer workers in 2011 than in 2009. These statistics alter the entire landscape for many high-schoolers who plan to help pay for higher education or other trappings of young-adulthood. It also should act like cold water in the face of parents who believe their teenagers — or teens-to-be — are part of the family’s revenue equation in the next few years. That might still be possible, but the challenge will be severe.
■ Younger workers often look for jobs in low-skilled, entry-level production and construction sectors, but according to a regional economist for the state, those types of jobs are the first to disappear in a recession like the one from which America is still trying to emerge.
■ Here’s a double whammy for young people who are pondering their economic future: In a down economy, employers can be more particular about hiring workers, often choosing those with more experience over younger applicants. Second, in that same down economy, older workers are working longer to make ends meet. This exacerbates the problem a young job-seeker faces.
All of those facts and many more work against the dreams of many young people. College and postsecondary training are more important than ever. It’s encouraging that colleges such as Washington State University Vancouver are working harder to attract and prepare young people.
Granted, college is not for every young person. For others, trade schools and training opportunities are more crucial than ever. But any teenager — or parent — who thinks playing it by ear is a viable career plan is ignoring the raging storm. And any teenager or parent who wistfully believes there is ample time to “find” one’s true purpose in life while remaining passive about work is defying reality.
Economic times are tough for everyone, but they’re even tougher for young people.