Press Releases

REPORT: Young Workers Face Record Unemployment

May 26 2010

Washington, D.C.
– The unemployment rate for young workers ages 16-24 has continued to climb, hitting a record high in April 2010, even as the economy has strengthened and added more than 570,000 jobs in the first four months of 2010, according to a new report by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC).

The report, entitled “Understanding the Economy: Unemployment Among Young Workers,” shows that one in five young workers was unemployed last month, a significant increase from prior to the recession when one in eight young workers was jobless.  The 19.6 percent unemployment rate for young workers ages 16-24 in April 2010 is the highest unemployment rate for this age group since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking unemployment data in 1947.

Additionally, the report shows:

  • Young workers make up a disproportionate share of the unemployed.  While 16-24 year olds comprise 13 percent of the labor force, they account for 26 percent of the unemployed.   
  • The youngest workers, those ages 16-17, experience the highest rates of unemployment.  The unemployment rate for 16-17 year olds was 29 percent in April 2010.
  • Education reduces the likelihood of being unemployed.  College graduates experience the lowest unemployment rate, 8.0 percent in April 2010, and those without a high school diploma the highest at 33 percent. 
  • The benefits of a college degree are not uniform among 16-24 year olds.  The unemployment rate for black college graduates was 15.8 percent in April 2010, nearly double the 8.0 percent unemployment rate for all college graduates.
  • While young workers face higher unemployment rates than prime-aged workers, young workers typically have shorter unemployment spells.  The median duration of unemployment for 16-19 year old workers is half that of all workers.
  • While unemployment spells have been shorter, younger workers are also scarred by this recession.  At a hearing before the JEC last month, witnesses testified that recent college graduates are likely to see reduced earnings even 10 or 15 years from now.

“This new JEC report makes clear that young workers have been hit hard and are still being hit hard by the Great Recession,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Chair of the JEC.  “In light of the scarring effect this recession will have on our young workers, we have to be especially diligent to do everything we can to create jobs, to bring down the record unemployment among young people, and to help these young workers build new skills.  Now is the time to reinvest in job training for young workers. I look forward to the JEC hearing later today where we will hear from experts on youth employment and examine innovative, successful job training models.”

Today’s JEC hearing, entitled “Avoiding a Lost Generation: How to Minimize the Impact of the Great Recession on Young Workers,” will focus on the challenges faced by young workers during the Great Recession and explore actions that could be taken to help young workers participate in the recovery now underway.


The Joint Economic Committee, established under the Employment Act of 1946, was created by Congress to review economic conditions and to analyze the effectiveness of economic policy.


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