The youth unemployment rate has declined by two percentage points to around 17%, after hitting a record high of around 19.1% for July in 2010. But judging by the numbers broken down by sex, the supposed improvement in the jobs picture has been a very different experience for guys and gals.
There is a growing population of youths who currently wait in employment purgatory. They are “going places” in the long term, but really struggling in the short term.
The causes are many, but stem from the hiring process itself. As the job market tanked, the newest entrants to the labor force were the last to be hired — and the first to be let go.
Student loans and bill payments have forced many youths — and especially women — to take jobs for which they are overqualified. Many young women with specialized degrees end up taking short-term jobs that have little or nothing to do with what they have studied, just to get by until that dream job comes knocking — if it ever does.
This young generation seems to have it all: smart, ambitious, full of energy. But they’re part of the “Lost Girls” generation — a generation of 20-somethings who find themselves with calluses and anxiety attacks, taking “dirty” jobs because the ones they are qualified for don’t exist.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, one in five women are currently working part-time jobs because they can’t find full-time work. Prior to the recession, that number was less than one in ten.
While the percentage of unemployed women looking for part-time work has increased, fewer men are seeking those jobs than even a few months ago.
Today’s young women scramble to at least find a job within their chosen field, but many men — feeling societal pressures on masculinity and self-sufficiency — are starting careers that they don’t even want, just to pay the bills. According to the Pew Research Center, 56% of young men took a job they didn’t want just to make ends meet, while just 41% of women said the same.
And men are more likely to hold out for full-time positions: nearly 83% of those young men who are currently unemployed are hoping for something full-time.
The same report found that more than one-third of young people rely on their parents for financial support. Even for those who are gainfully employed, 69% say they don’t make enough money to live the lifestyle they aspire to.
The recession-age stereotype of “moving back in with the ‘rents” is all too accurate, but apparently more so for young men than young women: while the share of women living with their parents has remained a fairly steady 10% since 2007, the share of men living at home has increased from 14% to nearly 19% in the same amount of time.
Once in a job, young women in major cities are earning more than their male co-workers. A recent study in Time magazine showed that in almost all of the largest cities in the U.S., the median full-time salaries of young women are 8% higher than those of the men in their peer group. This is even truer in the largest and most desirable job markets for young people, with young women in New York City and Los Angeles making 17% and 12% more than their male peers, respectively.
But, in the meantime, male or female, this generation is over-educated, under-employed — and lost.