The Recession

Economic Crisis Hitting Young Workers the Hardest

| by AFL-CIO

Since the current recession began in December 2007, some 1.3 million young workers have left the workforce, while the participation rate of workers ages 55 and older increased, according to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

This means many older workers are not retiring or are re-entering the labor force because they have suffered a sharp decline in retirement security, say authors Kathryn Edwards and Heidi Shierholz. 

At the same time, workers ages 16 to 24—who face an unemployment rate of 18.9 percent, compared with 6.8 percent for workers ages 55 and older—are having a hard time finding jobs. Many who do find work end up in low-paying jobs with few or no benefits.

One major benefit that young workers lack is health insurance. One-third of young U.S. adults—nearly 13 million people—had no health insurance coverage in 2008, according to a government report released yesterday. In a survey of more than 9,000 people ages 20 to 29, the National Center for Health Statistics found that 30 percent of young adults had no coverage and were nearly twice as likely as adults ages 30 to 64 to be uninsured.

People ages 20 to 29 account for more than a quarter of the uninsured people in the United States, although they make up just 14 percent of the overall population.

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler says the problems faced by young workers shows clearly the need for more good jobs in our economy now.

A whole generation of workers is being denied the opportunity to gain a foothold in the U.S. economy. We need real jobs with benefits. We need health care reform so millions of young workers will be protected if they get sick. And we need new policies that put people ahead of profits to make sure that something like this recession doesn’t happen again.

Writing at Daily Kos, Meteor Blades says remaking our economy requires more focus on young workers. 

Even before the recession, young adults on average had more debt and lower incomes than their parents did at the same age. And that situation has worsened since the recession began.. If you’ve heard the old expression, “Devil take the hindmost,” it applies these days most directly to young adults.

These new studies confirm the results of an AFL-CIO survey, Young Workers: A Lost Decade, in which one in three young workers say they are currently living at home with their parents. About a third are uninsured, a third also cannot pay their bills and seven in 10 do not have enough saved to cover two months of living expenses. Click here to read the full report.