PhotoThe nation's unemployment rate has trended down in recent months as confidence builds that the economy is on the road to recovery. But in both the U.S. and elsewhere, younger people appear to be lagging behind.

In the U.S., jobseekers between the ages of 16 and 24 are struggling against a jobless rate that's twice as high as the 8.3 percent rate for the nation as a whole.

The situation is even worse in Europe. New research from a study of more than 40,000 UK household has examined what is driving this uneven employment pattern and finds that young people suffer from a 'double-penalty' in their attempts to find and keep a job.

Last in, first out

The data show that young people are more likely than older workers to be laid off and less successful than older workers in finding new employment.

The rise in youth unemployment figures is due to young people being more likely than older workers to be laid off, thus swelling the unemployment figures. But they are also less likely than older people to successfully find a new job, and so the average time they spend in unemployment has increased.

Double penalty

"Young people are particularly suffering in this recession, with unemployment currently even higher than when this survey was conducted,” said Dr. Mark Taylor, a labor analyst at the University of Essex. “The double-penalty faced by young people is due to them falling victim to the 'last-in, first-out' policies that are used in practice by many employers. Then, on the other hand, young people tend to have accumulated fewer job-specific skills. Employers may feel that they lose less by letting young workers go and may also choose not to hire them because of the costs associated with training them.”

While there are a number of efforts to assist young people in dealing with their short-term situation, the Economic Policy Institute warns there are also long-term implications.

“Evidence from past recessions of the effect on young workers who entered the labor market during a downturn shows that the impact is severe and long-lasting,” the group said on its website. “In particular, entering the labor market in a severe downturn can lead to reduced earnings for up to 10 to 15 years. Young workers at all levels of educational attainment who enter the labor market during a downturn face higher rates of unemployment.”

With fewer job openings, it's harder to find a food entry level job that will lead to advancement. As a result, young people who have the misfortune to be young during a period of high unemployment could have future instability in employment and earnings as they get older.


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