Americans aged 24 or younger could be part of a “lost generation,” says a new cover story from Business Week.
For people just starting their careers, the damage may be deep and long-lasting, potentially creating a kind of “lost generation.” Studies suggest that an extended period of youthful joblessness can significantly depress lifetime income as people get stuck in jobs that are beneath their capabilities, or come to be seen by employers as damaged goods.
It’s the latest stylish trend piece at a time when general stories on an economy that might not return for two or three years are already old hat. A lot of the numbers are fuzzy and the effect may be questionable, but there’s no questioning that it’s daunting for many 20-somethings.
We graduated and walked into perhaps the worst economy since before our grandparents were our age. A few more distinctions this author has taken on has made those statistics seem even more frightening, but outside of the occasional sobbing, I try to remind myself that there’s no better time or place in the world than where I am now.
First, how about five reasons why I should be professionally scared:
- More than half of Americans under the age of 24 are unemployed
“The unemployment rate for young Americans has exploded to 52.2 percent — a post-World War II high, according to the Labor Dept… During previous recessions, in the early ’80s, early ’90s and after Sept. 11, 2001, unemployment among 16-to-24 year olds never went above 50 percent.”
- “The unemployment rate for men is running 2.7 percentage points higher than for women”
A “just unprecedented” spread, according to economist Mark Perry at the University of Michigan-Flint.”
- Philadelphia has one of the highest national unemployment rates for 20-somethings
“While national unemployment is at 9.4 percent, people ages 20 to 29 face jobless rates of 12.7 percent nationally and 14 percent in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, including South Jersey, according to figures compiled by Mark Price of the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg.”
- Nearly 30,000 newspaper jobs have been cut since the beginning of 2008
Yup, while I am working on building hyperlocal news sites and my own small business, I am freelancing mostly for newspapers and have first come into the tragically dysfunctional journalism business at the most dramatic shift in its more than two-centuries old history.
- Nearly one-third of employees with 401ks are saving even less than they did six months ago
I was raised a saver and did so quite obsessively throughout my childhood, well into college. I always had a job and rarely made any unnecessary purchases, so I left college in May 2008 with a fine nest egg for a middle-class college graduate. But after backpacking Europe and more than a year under performing in the earning category, those liquid assets have been… mostly liquidated. That leaves me vulnerable in a small way like millions of Americans deal with everyday and limits a lot of good behavior.
I am a (1) male (2) 20-something in the (3) Philadelphia (4) news industry with a (5) decimated bank account.
That’s a lot (5) stacked against any young professional, but there’s balance to be had.
I am blessed with great privilege and a great country of opportunity. I have been put in a time and a place in which I can experiment quite easily with new media models, relatively risk free. I have been forced into a state of entrepreneurship that I probably never would have executed otherwise. I am a thousand-times stronger manager and developer than ever before.
Lots of people are saying just these same things for the news industry specifically and shouting really loudly about what to do.
If I have to bus a few tables, make a few photocopies, talk a bit about social networking now for the opportunity to build a business, make my own schedule and choose what I want to do, can there be any hesitation about this time being a great opportunity?
If what I’m doing now is “sacrificing,” I’ll happily do that to build what I want to build. ….Now, if this whole ship is going down, well, then, damn.
At least when you fail, it helps knowing your entire generation is trying to figure this out.