I was astounded last week to read statistics that show that people ages 16-24 have been the hardest hit by unemployment during the recession. Although a slew of economists are claiming that the recession is over and we’re headed into recovery, the New York Post is reporting that:

The unemployment rate for young Americans has exploded to 52.2 percent — a post-World War II high, according to the Labor Dept. — meaning millions of Americans are staring at the likelihood that their lifetime earning potential will be diminished and, combined with the predicted slow economic recovery, their transition into productive members of society could be put on hold for an extended period of time.

And worse, without a clear economic recovery plan aimed at creating entry-level jobs, the odds of many of these young adults — aged 16 to 24, excluding students — getting a job and moving out of their parents’ houses are long. Young workers have been among the hardest hit during the current recession — in which a total of 9.5 million jobs have been lost.

One of the reasons that unemployment among young people is so high is that many of those entry-level jobs are going to “adults.” There were several news reports over the summer that places like Sea World and other theme parks, which typically rely on high school and college students to run the joint, were hiring more and more seasoned workers this year. In the past, someone with a BA in English might be unlikely to apply for a job picking up trash at Six Flags, but this year that’s a desirable job.

I think both the Democrats and the Republicans have a big problem on their hands. This generation turned out in record numbers to vote last year. Yes, health care reform is important. But as both parties pander to the retirement-age voters, this generation of unemployed voters is likely to remember their economic struggles for a long time to come.

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