The unemployment rate for young Americans this July dropped almost two points from 2016, but the share of young people seeking employment remained low compared to previous decades.
The jobless rate for Americans between 16 and 24 years old fell to 9.6% in July from 11.5% a year earlier, the Labor Department said Wednesday. The rate reflects those actively seeking but unable to find a job.
Last month's figure, while more than double the rate for all adults, matched July 2000 as the lowest midsummer jobless number since 1969. But the historically low rate comes with a big caveat: A far smaller share of young people are seeking summer jobs than in decades past.
According to the Department of Labor, the portion of 16-24 year-olds who had or sought a job increased from 60.6 percent last month from 60.1 percent in 2016. "[B]oth of those readings," WSJ reports, "are well down from a 1989 peak, when 77.5% of those in their late teens and early 20s were in that category."
These numbers could reflect lingering impacts of the recession, evidence of a new cultural trend, or a combination of both. Decreased demand for youth labor caused by adults taking entry-level jobs in the wake of the recession could have created a new normal for young Americans. Toppers Pizza told WSJ it struggles to find workers in affluent areas where fewer young people are seeking entry-level positions.
"The recession changed the landscape," Walter Simmons, director of workforce services for Prince George's County, Md., told WSJ. "It's harder to get a job at the grocery store for the summer, and the students don't want those jobs."
Perhaps young people today are more interested in pursuing unpaid internships for future career prospects or turning to their parent's checkbooks than young people in previous decades. It also seems possible the age cohort is gradually recovering from trends set by 16-24 year olds who found less work during the recession and spent their time otherwise engaged. Nevertheless, according to the Labor Department, the labor force participation rate among young people has been declining steadily since the 1990's.
Emily Jashinsky is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.