March Jobs Report: A Mixed Bag for Young People
by Max Antonucci | Syracuse University
March brought lackluster news for the economy, as growth fell short of everyone’s expectations.
Only 120,000 jobs were added when the projected number was 203,000. And the unemployment rate, which had held steady at 8.3% since January, fell only slightly to 8.2%.
Both political parties commented on the jobs report with various degrees of disappointment. President Obama felt that the number of jobs added was a positive sign, but that the U.S. still has a ways to go before the recovery is complete. He conceded that “there will still be ups and downs along the way, and that we’ve still got a lot to do.”
Republican opponents, including likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney, said the jobs report was evidence that “the unemployment remains stagnant” and was evidence of Obama’s failed economic policies.
The youth unemployment rate went from bad to slightly worse in March, rising from 24.1% to 24.5% for people ages 16-19, 61.8% to 62.1% for people ages 20-24, and 7.3% to 7.5% for students with a college or associate’s degree. These are all mostly unchanged from March of last year.
Not all the new data for young workers was bad, however. For high school graduates, things improved, with their unemployment rate dropping from 8.3% to 8% (much lower from the rate of 9.5% in March of last year). And the rate for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher held steady at 4.2%, mostly unchanged from last year.
The specific reasons behind the long-lasting unemployment for the current generation are varied. One possible reason is that many people coming of age are more likely to play internet and video games than get out into the world to start a career or a family. A study from the Pew Research Center has shown that people in today’s generation are indeed less likely to move out.
Another is that many high school level jobs, such as construction, are what many young adults go to and have also been the slowest to recover. This has increased the demand for jobs requiring college education, such as healthcare, which many don’t have the time or money to study for.
It could also be because of those already employed, with older workers retiring at later ages and middle-aged workers staying in more stable jobs due to the risky economy. This decreases the number of entry level jobs available and makes competition more intense for areas that aren’t expanding fast, like computer sciences.
According to the job report data, the overall U.S. economy has been going in a slow but steady increase since September 2010. While there was a decrease in jobs for four months in 2010 and a slight dip between May and August 2011, the number of jobs created every month hasn’t fallen below 100,000 for the past two years. For slightly less than half of these months, including the three prior to March, job growth even exceeded 200,000. The current drop in March is a hiccup that’s been seen several times already.
If job growth stalls to the point where unemployment remains where it presently is for several months, then Republicans are right in saying that this is an anemic recovery. But saying only one month of less than impressive job growth from a few years of reasonable growth doesn’t necessarily point to failed policies.
An important fact about Obama’s economic policies is that they’re working very slowly. Economists need to watch the bigger picture for the next 2-3 years, since only powerful deviations from the current trend will give any meaningful information.
Hopefully the recovery will rise back up and continue the strong improvement from the three months prior to March. If it does, it has a better chance of helping younger workers with their future, as well. With youth unemployment not showing much improvement, high school and college age citizens should prepare for a long stretch of difficulties, unless they make the right career decisions. For college students, this includes choosing the right major and finding ways to get more experience before graduation. Until things improve, job security is a high priority.Max Antonucci is a NGJ Staff Writer and a Syracuse University freshman, majoring in Newspaper and Online Journalism, and minoring in Information and Technology.