Job crisis for 20-somethings

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September 23, 2011, 6:05 pm
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(NECN: Peter Howe, Newton, MA)-  It's new data that makes many fear today's 20-somethings may be "a lost generation," numbers showing that far too many people in that age group are struggling to find meaningful jobs or settling for part-time work well below what they're capable of doing.

New data from the Northeastern University Center for Labor Market Studies and the Census Bureau show that compared to 2000, when 80 percent of Americans aged 23 to 29 were employed, as of 2010, that was down to 71.4 percent, a drop of 8.6 percentage points.

It's been especially tough for minorities. Leaving out full-time students, compared to 2000, the percentage of people aged 16 to 29 employed has dropped from 64 percent to 53 percent among Latinos, 58 to 48 percent among Asians, and from 57 to 44 percent among African-Americans.

Those are numbers that have some resonance with Rachel Lefsky of Newton, MA. At 22, she has a lot going for her, including a political-science degree from top-tier Tufts University. But despite months of looking and networking and interviewing, she has yet to line up a full-time job, and is feeling a little frustrated to be back at home with her family.

"It took me the entire summer, and I'm still figuring out what I want to do. I now have a part-time job and a part-time internship'' -- with a communications firm and a health-oriented non-profit -- "which are both great, and I really love them, but it's definitely not what I was expecting when I graduated.''

(Not wanting to create any media issues for her current employers, she asked not to have them identified by name.)

While many generations of smart liberal-arts graduates have been able to find full-time jobs after graduating and get launched on a career, in 2011, people like Rachel are finding that extra-hard.

"A lot of it is, I'm kind of exploring options and figuring out different things, and I think there's that challenge in general no matter how the job market is  ... but then having the extra level of 'the job market is really awful and really just, difficult,' that makes it even harder.''


"It's  definitely stressful, and it's hard, but I guess trying to stay positive's important,'' Lefsky said, adding that she's grateful to have some footholds in what's proving to be a tough-to-crack workforce. "I have research skills, I have writing skills, and I'm organized -- and I'm nice -- and I think those are important in a job.''

And studies show one very smart thing Rachel is doing is to make sure she has part-time work and an internship while she looks for full time. Studies show that, depending on the industry sector, anywhere from 35 percent to 75 percent of jobs are filled in what's often called the "hidden job market." That is, jobs that are never formally advertised online or with recruiters but are filled by word of mouth, by a boss promoting an intern or a part-timer, or by a company or organization hiring someone who works for a vendor or business partner.

 Just finding a way to be out there every day, to learn about and be ready for opportunities that can present themselves, is a key, no matter what your age.

With videographer David Jacobs

Tags: Peter Howe, employment, job crisis, new data, 23 to 29 year olds
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