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U.S. Jobs Crisis Is Depression-Style Calamity for Young Americans: Demos’ Draut

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The Great Recession is technically over but with more than 22 million Americans un- and underemployed, six million who have been out of work for more than six months, the situation is still dire.

It's especially bad for America's young workers, who are facing a "depression-era crisis," according to Tamara Draut, vice president of policy and program for Demos and author of Strapped: Why America's 20- and 30-Somethings Can't Get Ahead.

"It's become harder for anyone of this generation to either work or educate their way into the middle class," Draut tells The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task in the accompanying clip.

The result has been higher than average unemployment in this group. In 2010, the unemployment rate among 17-24 year olds was 17.3%. The reality is even worse for minorities. Latinos of that age suffered 20.1% jobless rate; for African-Americans it was 28.8%.

Draut says the country's declining manufacturing base is to blame for the plight of young Americans. "We've lost the ability to have a blue collar middle class," Draut says. Without a college diploma it's nearly impossible to find work that affords a middle class life. "Today, young men with only a high school degree are earning 25% less than their parents." In 1980, a man without only a high school degree earned about $39,000 per year. In 2010, the average salary had fallen to $30,000.

How do we solve the problem?

The key, according to Draut, is to invest in infrastructure. If it worked in the Great Depression it will work again. Draut claims it's more than coincidence that the dwindling middle class comes at a time of steady "disinvestment in infrastructure." To that point, Draut calls for a W.P.A. program for the entire country.

Task wonders if we should take it one step further and reinstate the draft.

What is the best way to get young Americans back to work?