Media Highlights

Opportunity Nation Youth Employment Series

by Russell Krumnow   •  

Did you know youth unemployment in the United States has been at least twice the national average for more than 60 consecutive months?

Imagine the headlines if overall unemployment rates were 12, 15, even 20 percent. We would be talking about little else.

Well, those are the shocking statistics for millions of young Americans ages 16-24. And their struggles in the labor market carry grave implications for all of us.

That’s why Opportunity Nation is highlighting the urgent issue of youth employment on our blog and via social media, as well as through our upcoming National Opportunity Summit in February 2015.

On the first Friday of every month, the U.S. Department of Labor releases a 30-plus page report on “the employment situation” of the previous month that prompts a flurry of press coverage. After all, the unemployment rate is a key barometer of how the U.S. economy is doing, and how much specific job sectors are expanding or contracting.

Buried in fine print halfway through the report is some information about teens, ages 16-19 and young adults ages 20-24. These groups have been experiencing unemployment rates at least twice the national average – about 20 percent and 12 percent, respectively. This devastating trend has persisted for years, but receives scant attention because it affects youth rather than the overall population at large. 

On August 13, 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a short summary on Employment and Unemployment among youth ages 16 to 24, a summer employment snapshot it puts out once a year, to little fanfare. The most recent data, from July 2014, found the summer unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year olds combined was 14.3 percent, which was two percentage points lower than July 2013, but still more than twice the national average.

Today we have new monthly numbers. The “official” unemployment rate for August 2014 is 6.1%, a slight improvement from the previous month. However, the unemployment rate for teens ages 16-19 is 19.6%, and for young adults 20-24 is 10.6%. These numbers are particularly sobering as summer employment rates are typically higher than during the school year, as more teens and young adults enter the summer job market.


The Great Recession may be officially over. But young Americans are among its biggest victims in terms of unemployment. And we know, thanks to a report released earlier this year by our Coalition Partner Young Invincibles, that the longer teens and young adults are shut out of the job market, the more their future earnings, career prospects and long-term financial stability are damaged.

Their future is ours. Unless we can help more teens and young adults embark on meaningful education and career pathways and get good jobs, our nation’s prosperity and security are at risk.

We hope you will read and share Opportunity Nation’s Shared Plan, which highlights several solutions to this crisis. We will also be elevating innovative approaches and cross-sector collaborations designed to help young Americans get good jobs in the months ahead, and at the Summit in February. 

We must ensure all youth have access to upward mobility and the promise represented in the American Dream. Together we can tackle the youth employment crisis.

Russell Krumnow Russell Krumnow is the Managing Director of Opportunity Nation and works with more than 350 partner organizations to advance policy change and community actions that expand economic opportunity across the country. Read Russell's bio.

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