US unemployment at lowest since 2008 – but young people still can’t find work

On Friday, the jobless rate dropped to 5.5%, the lowest in seven years. But youth unemployment is rising – and some young people need all the help they can get

youth unemployment

Over the past year the number of employed young Americans has gone up by almost 400,000, to 14.1 million. Photograph: Tony Tallec / Alamy/Alamy


Snow blanketed New York City on Thursday, and its streets quickly emptied. An occasional brave soul could be seen walking, head down, shoulders hunched against the wind. Offices cleared out early as the weather threatened the journey home, but behind the blue doors of a nondescript Manhattan building a group of young people were wishing they had jobs to leave.

The Door, in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood, is a nonprofit that helps people between the ages of 12 and 25 find jobs and get healthcare, legal help and qualifications. It helps about 10,000 young Americans a year.

The US economy is booming. On Friday, the Commerce Department announced overall US unemployment had fallen to 5.5%. Yet the unemployment rate for young Americans rose to double digits last month. Unemployment rate for those aged 20-24 years old was 10% in February – up from 9.8% in January.

Even on this snowy day, dozens of people were milling around at The Door, discussing their studies and legal issues, job training and placement services. In this economy, they need all the help they can get.

The majority of people at The Door are African American. The recession has left them even further behind. In the last quarter of 2013, the unemployment rate for African Americans aged 16-19 was 29.6%. For those aged 20-24 it was 18.9%.

The overall unemployment rate can be misleading when it comes to youth unemployment. The headline number does not account forthose who have given up looking for a job altogether because the opportunities are so few. Those who have given up are often referred to as “missing workers”. According to Alyssa Davis at the Economic Policy Institute, there are about 1 million young missing workers – under 25 years old – and if they were included, the unemployment rate for young Americans would be closer to 16.2%.

Over the past year the number of employed young Americans has gone up by almost 400,000, to 14.1 million.

Janeé Garrett, 24, is one of those who was able to find a job last year – thanks to The Door. It took her six months. The first four months she tried searching on her own.

“I was applying for every job known to man,” she says. Most of the jobs she applied for were in retail or clerical work. “It was depressing. I needed a job. At that time, I was living with my grandmother and she could not understand why it was taking me so long to find a job. Because you go on the internet, there are a thousand jobs, and you are applying to 10, 15 of them a day and you don’t get any calls. It’s like: what is wrong with me?”

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