The young and the old are equally the victims of a slow and slowing economy, according to Ronald Brownstein in National Journal.
Recent college graduates are frustrated by their apparent inability to enter the workforce. Members of the class of 2011 will face unemployment rates of roughly 17% among their peers.
Brownstein writes that the problem for new graduates will compound itself year-over-year, as 2011 graduates now have to compete with 2010, 2009, and 2008 graduates, and next year’s graduates will have to compete with job-seekers who left school in 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, etc.
Obversely, senior citizens who thought they would be able to begin retiring around now are having difficulty leaving the labour force, with their post-retirement financial security increasingly in jeopardy.
From the National Journal:
“Together, these twin trends have produced an economy in which the oldest workers are now nearly as likely to be employed as the youngest. From January 1948 through September 2009, the labour-force-participation rate of older Americans came within 8 percentage points of the rate among younger people in only one month. Since October 2009, the difference between the two groups has been 8 percentage points or less in every month. One side can’t start working; the other can’t stop.”
One negative impact of this new dynamic, especially on youth, is what might be called an “idleness epidemic,” creating a new Lost Generation.
“The share of Americans younger than 24 neither at work nor in school has steadily increased since 2007,” Brownstein writes.
Meanwhile, Brownstein argues, the interests of youth and of seniors are aligned: “Unless today’s young people ascend into well-paying jobs, it won’t be possible to finance Social Security and Medicare for tomorrow’s seniors,” he says.
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