It’s Time to Worry About Gen Y Joblessness

While the Great Recession appears to be over, a return to normalcy seems far off. At least that’s according to a recent article published in The Atlantic.

If you can believe what you read, “there are good reasons to believe that by 2011, 2012, even 2014 unemployment will have declined only a little” off the near 10%. The effect will be an “era of high joblessness [that] will likely change the life course and character of a generation of young adults.” That’s not surprising considering that the current unemployment rate for all workers between the ages of 16 and 24 is hovering around 19%! And it’s worse — much worse for young black males between 20 and 24 years-old where the unemployment rate is a whopping 35% (compared to 19% for while males).

With anemic job creation and even slower Baby Boomer attrition, the author of How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America believes this job slump could “change the nature of modern marriage…plunge inner cities into despair and dysfunction…and warp our politics, our culture, and the character of our society for years.”

Is he right? (If the torrent of Congressional exits is any indication, it’s a pretty good sign that joblesseness and economic recovery in the near-term won’t be pretty.)

Within the past 24 hours I’ve read an article reporting that that the level of job dissatisfaction for workers under the age of 25 is at the highest level ever recorded. Another one titled “So You Thought Generation X Was Angry” describes how Gen Y is bearing the brunt of the economic collapse. And a third pointed to how Gen Y feeling left out of job market is causing a big problem for them and the business world.

Concurrently, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) was painting a graphic and bleak picture of an imploding workplace and deteriorating infrastructure designed by Baby Boomers to be paid for by Gen X and Gen Y. In his recent speech on fiscal “state of emergency” he said:

One state retiree, 49 years old, paid, over the course of his entire career, a total of $124,000 towards his retirement pension and health benefits. What will we pay him? $3.3 million in pension payments over his life and nearly $500,000 for health care benefits — a total of $3.8m on a $120,000 investment.

A retired teacher paid $62,000 towards her pension and nothing, yes nothing, for full family medical, dental and vision coverage over her entire career. What will we pay her? $1.4 million in pension benefits and another $215,000 in health care benefit premiums over her lifetime.

He then asked, “Is it ‘fair’ for all of us and our children to have to pay for this excess?” That’s a great question and one which will take a courageous man or woman to look into the eyes of a young unemployed adult today and say, “Yes. I deserve every penny.”

So for the time being, it looks like at least one-fifth of young adults will remain unemployed. Unfortunately when they do get a job, it seems likely that each paycheck will come with a hefty deduction to pay for failures and excesses of a generation gone by.

Is it any wonder then why tension is building between the Baby Boomers and their successors, Gen X and Gen Y?

Also posted on my Workforce Trends blog at Bizmore.com

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