Citing recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, a Wall Street Journal article notes that the unemployment rate among high school dropouts aged sixteen to twenty-four was 29 percent last year—up from 17.7 percent in 2000 and 7 percentage points higher than their peers who earned a high school diploma. The article is part of the Wall Street Journal’s “Generation Jobless” series, which focuses on Americans aged twenty-five and younger who are facing one of the toughest job markets in modern history.
The article notes that high unemployment rates means that competition for low-skill jobs is highly competitive, pitting young dropouts against older and better-educated workers who are “being pushed down the jobs ladder.”
Featured in the article is Summer Forbes, who dropped out of high school at age seventeen. Now nineteen, Forbes spends her days “hanging out with friends, completing the requirements for her diploma through an online program, and checking Craigslist for job ads.” Recently, she has gone through several low-wage positions, including seasonal positions at retail stores, fast-food outlets and social-service organizations. “I’m tired of waking up and worrying, worrying, worrying about where my next job is going to be,” Forbes says in the article.
“It was hard enough for people without a high school diploma before the downturn,” Jonathan Bowles, director of the Center for an Urban Future in New York City says in the article. “Those folks are at the back of the line now.”
Younger college graduates also face a tough hiring environment. According to the second Wall Street Journal article in the “Generation Jobless” series, the unemployment rate for college graduates aged twenty-four and younger is 7.7 percent, which is much better than their less educated peers but still lower than older individuals with their same level of education.
The third article in the “Generation Jobless” series spotlights young men aged twenty-five to thirty-four. According to the article, the unemployment rate for males between twenty-five and thirty-four with a high school diploma is 14.4 percent, which is up from 6.1 percent before the economic downturn hit four years ago and much higher than today’s 9 percent national unemployment rate.
Without jobs, these young men often move back home or live in group houses with multiple roommates. According to recent figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, the proportion of young men aged twenty-five to thirty-four living with their parents rose from 14 percent in 2005 to 20 percent in 2011. The percentage of young women living at home rose from 8 percent to 10 percent during the same time frame.
“The increase in twenty-five to thirty-four-year-olds living in their parents’ homes began before the recent recession, and has continued beyond it,” said Rose Kreider, a family demographer with the Fertility and Family Statistics Branch of the U.S. Census Bureau and author of the report.
The job market for older individuals with lower levels of education is not much better. According to the October 2011 jobs figures from the U.S. Department of Labor, the national unemployment rate is 9 percent, but it is 13.8 percent for high school dropouts aged twenty-five and older, which is more than three times higher than the unemployment rate for college graduates (4.4 percent).