No Jobs, No Opportunity: America’s Young Face Permanent Setback

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It’s not a competition, but economists have been hung up on which group of people the anemic recovery has been harder for. Is it baby boomers, who were gearing up for retirement right as the crisis hit and ravaged their retirement accounts, destroyed their jobs, and diminished the value of their homes? Is it those who lost their homes in the flood of foreclosures that swept the market? Is it young people, tripping out of college saddled with enormous debt and dismal job prospects?

Everyone has suffered, but the damage that threatens to do the most long-term, systemic economic harm is the damage done to those young people. Failure to launch in the job market can undermine the financial stability and career trajectory of a person for years, decades, or even the rest of his or her life. Unemployment among those 20 to 24 years old was 11.9 percent in February and will likely drift higher as students graduate and flood into an unwelcoming job market.

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“If we look over people’s likely future lives, when you’re part of a generation that comes in with a tough job market and your wages are not so great, you don’t recover,” Richard Freeman, a Harvard University labor economist, told the Star Tribune. “They are going to be at a permanently lower standard of living than they would have been had we either avoided this catastrophe or had we had a successful jobs recovery.”

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