2012 September Jobless Statement
October 5, 2012
As people of faith, we continue to be concerned about our country’s slow economic recovery. With this month’s release of unemployment rates, we see yet another sign that while economists may say that the recession has ended, the reality of unemployment and under-employment remains true for millions of Americans—particularly those often left on the margins of the conversation about economic recovery.
The unemployment rate in the month of September decreased to 7.8%. While the total jobless number is 12.1 million, 114,000 jobs were created in September. Still there remains a startling 4.8 million who are long term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) — 40.1 % of the unemployed population. Among specific worker groups the unemployment for adult men was 7.3 %, adult women 7%, whites 7%, blacks 13.4%, Hispanics 9.9%, and Asians 4.8%.
Both high school and college students who were members of the Class of 2012 graduated more than four months ago, and it is very likely that many of these graduates are still struggling to find a full-time job. For workers age 17-24, the past six years have been incredibly troubling as young workers attempt to enter a struggling job market during a recession.
A February 2012 Pew Research Center study found that America is currently experiencing the lowest employment rate for workers age 18-24 since the government began keeping track in 1948. The Pew study goes on to describe additional concerns for this age group, stating “The recession has eroded young workers’ paychecks to a far greater degree than any other age group. Among adults ages 18 to 34, more than a third said they have gone back to school in the face of tough labor market [which only adds to their student debt in the future]. Nearly a quarter have taken an unpaid job or moved back in with parents.” The study, “The Class of 2012: Labor market for young graduates remains grim,” by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), adds, “The wages of young high school graduates dropped by 10.1 percent between 2007 and 2011, and the wages of young college graduates dropped by 4.6 percent over the same period.”
According to EPI, “In economic recession as well as expansion, the unemployment rate for young workers (those under age 25) is typically around twice as high as the overall unemployment rate.” For high school graduates 17-20, who are currently not enrolled in additional schooling, the unemployment rate on average was 31.1% over the last year. For recent college graduates ages 21-24, the unemployment rate on average has been 9.4% over the past year. By comparison, the average unemployment rate for the entire country in 2011 was 8.9%.
The issues presented by the recession are also likely to follow this young worker population into the next few decades. According to EPI, entering the labor market during a downturn can lead to lower earnings, greater salary instability and more spells of unemployment over the next 10-15 years. Even those young adults lucky enough to find a job struggle with long-term employment. A May 2012 Gallup poll found that 1 in 3 18-29 year-olds in the U.S. workforce are underemployed.
Young workers entering the labor market for the first time during such economic uncertainty often have to settle for lower-level jobs, adding to the severe and long-lasting negative impact on earnings and career advancement which they will accumulate over the course of a lifetime. Also, their lack of experience makes them oftentimes more vulnerable to layoffs and salary reductions than their more experienced coworkers.
In order to make space in the job market for these young workers, the economy needs an infusion of new jobs for workers at all levels of experience. As we consider these monthly reflections on our economy’s health, we remind our elected officials that they must soon create and debate legislation that aims to create jobs and strengthen our economy without forgetting about those who are at greatest risk of impoverishment and hardship, including young workers. As scripture tells us, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope.”Jeremiah 29:11.
You can find DHN’s Jobs Statement of Principles here.
American Friends Service Committee
Church of the Brethren
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Interfaith Worker Justice
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Mennonite Central Committee U.S., Washington Office
National Advocacy Center Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Churches
National Council of Jewish Women
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Office of Social Justice and Hunger; Christian Reformed Church in North America
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness
Sisters of Mercy Institute Justice Team
Union for Reform Judaism
The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
The United Methodist Church-General Board of Church and Society