As bad as the headline unemployment numbers make the young adult jobs crisis seem, the reality is even worse.
May's jobless rate for those aged 16-24 was 16.1%. That's bleak, but a big improvement from 19.6% in early 2010 and not much worse than the 15% touched in 1992.
Yet when one focuses on the roughly 16 million young adults no longer in school, there has been almost no recovery in full-time employment since the generational low hit in early 2010 .
As the nation's job-creating machine was downshifting to first gear, just 47.3% of these young adults held full-time jobs in May — down 12 percentage points from May 2007 and 16.5 percentage points from 2000, when the slide really began.
Young And Restless Even after adjusting for more people staying in school longer, the under-25 group has seen 1.9 million full-time jobs disappear since 2007 and 2.6 million since 2000.
That translates to a loss of 1 out of every 3.85 full-time jobs since 2000 for those under 25 no longer enrolled in school.
And that's happened even as educational attainment among this group has increased. Now more than 80% have a high school diploma and more than 40% have attended college. Back in 2000, those rates were roughly 75% and 33%, respectively.
For perspective, as full-time employment has fallen 26% for these out-of-school young adults over a dozen years, the total number of full-time workers is up about a half million.
So where did those young adult jobs go? Mostly to baby boomers. The number of full-time employed among the 55-and-up group is up nearly 10 million since 2000, including 3.5 million since 2007.
Overall, the number of full-time employed workers is still down 7.5 million from the 2007 peak.
Stay In School? To a certain extent, young adults have responded to the jobs drought by staying in school longer to try to develop marketable skills. Since 2000, the percentage of 16-to-24-year-olds enrolled in school has jumped from 52% to 59%.
But more education no longer seems like a slam-dunk now that the spiraling cost of college is leaving graduates burdened with hefty student loan debts; the jobless rate for college dropouts is higher than for high school finishers; and the majority of the jobless over 24 have been to college. Worst Of Times But for the 16 million or so under-25 adults no longer biding their time in school, there has pretty much never been a worse time to be in the job market. Full-time employment rates of 60% or higher have been the norm in good economic times for out-of-school young adults, but the rate never fell below 55% before 2009, in data stretching back to 1985. The fall has been even steeper for young adults with at least a high school diploma, as more education has become the norm. In May, just over 50% had a full-time job, down from nearly 70% in 2000. Still, four-year college grads have fared by far the best among this group, with 75.7% holding full-time jobs. That's down from 83% in 2007 but up from a cycle low of 73%. A further downer for young adults is that research suggests their current job travails may have a long-lasting negative effect on income.