Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics


New York’s Young Adult Unemployment Crisis Needs A Strategy

NYCEDC pic students tour

Students on a tour (photo via NYCEDC)

Starting one’s adult life in poverty and without a job has serious long-term economic consequences that negatively impact future job prospects, earnings, and wealth. Young people are scaling one of the toughest jobs cliffs in recent memory, and the situation is a looming threat to economic growth in our state. We need to combat New York’s young adult unemployment crisis with a robust strategy, and now.

One analysis found that a young person who is unemployed for six months can expect to earn $22,000 less over a ten year period. Here in New York, more than 400,000 unemployed 16-to-24-year-olds are looking for work. This could lead to a potential loss of about $8.8 billion in earnings to young adult New Yorkers over the course of the next decade.

According to the 2015 American Community Survey, New York’s young adult unemployment rate is 15 percent, and for young adult New Yorkers of color, it can be as high as 25 percent. That’s more than 10 and 20 percentage points higher than older adults, respectively. Relatedly, more than 13 percent of 16-to-24 year olds in New York are out of school and out of work altogether. On top of high unemployment, the state’s young adult poverty rate is 22 percent, 10 percentage points higher than for older adults.

High unemployment only exacerbates growing economic inequality. Wages and incomes already stand at lower levels for this generation than older generations when they were young adults. Worse, today’s job market increasingly requires a postsecondary credential or qualification, and along with it, the possibility of student debt.

By 2018, at least 62 percent of jobs will require some college, 28 percent of jobs will require only a high school credential, and just 10 percent of jobs won’t require a high school credential. For the most disadvantaged and disconnected young adult New Yorkers, this puts access to a decent job—and with it a financially secure life—even further out of reach, threatening our state’s economic security and shared prosperity.

Unfortunately, despite the unmet demand for a trained workforce and high young adult unemployment, a real statewide youth jobs strategy is missing.

Young Invincibles, the youth advocacy organization for which I am Northeast Director, is releasing a report in the coming weeks analyzing the Urban Youth Jobs Program. The program currently represents the state’s single largest youth jobs investment in New York State, authorized to spend $50 million annually. Our report finds that despite this massive investment, the tax credit program inadequately addresses the need to develop the skills of young adults that would better connect them to meaningful careers.

That’s why Young Invincibles, along with more than a dozen other partners across the state, is calling on the Labor Committees of the New York State Assembly and Senate to hold a joint public hearing to review the Urban Youth Jobs Program and begin the public policy process to develop a real young adult jobs strategy.

There are proven, evidence-based solutions to these issues, but like with any adversity, we must have the political will to tackle our challenges head on and embrace those answers. A public hearing is one way we can start needed conversation about how to respond to the modern-day economic challenges young adult New Yorkers face.

Kevin Stump is the Northeast Director for Young Invincibles, an advocacy and policy organization working on higher education, health, and jobs issues impacting 18-34 year olds. YI is also a part of President Obama's College Promise Task Force. On Twitter @KevinStump and @YoungInvincible.

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