Bad Numbers

The New York Post reports that unemployment among young people is at a post-WWII high:

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. …
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. Except after 9/11, jobs growth followed within two years.
A much slower recovery is forecast today. [Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute] believes it could take four or five years to ramp up jobs again.

These numbers caused me to go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ site for some additional comparisons between the present recession and recent history, as it relates to unemployment. The numbers are surprisingly (to me, anyway) bad. This recession has hit men especially hard, as many have noted. These graphs compare historical unemployment levels among men and women; the first is for men. Click to enlarge. The enlarged image will also show the dates and units measured:
This compares historical unemployment rates for high school and college graduates; high school graduates are on top:
Another way to break down the demographics is by race. Here are unemployment trends for whites, blacks and Hispanics, in that order:
One troublesome feature of the current recession is that people tend to be unemployed longer than has been usual in the past. This chart shows the median weeks for which the unemployed have been out of work, from 1971 to the present:
I’d guess you could find a correlation there to extensions of unemployment compensation by the government, but I haven’t gone back through history to try to prove the point.
You can draw your own conclusions from these data, but I don’t think anyone can deny that the employment numbers are very bad. The article linked above includes quotes from Al Angrisani, an assistant Labor Department secretary under President Reagan, who places the blame squarely on the Obama administration:

“There is no assistance provided [in the Democrats’ stimulus bill] for the development of job growth through small businesses, which create 70 percent of the jobs in the country,” Angrisani said in an interview last week. “All those [unemployed young people] should be getting hired by small businesses.”
There are six million small businesses in the country, those that employ less than 100 people, and a jobs stimulus bill should include tax credits to give incentives to those businesses to hire people, the former Labor official said.
“If each of the businesses hired just one person, we would go a long way in growing ourselves back to where we were before the recession,” Angrisani noted. …
Angrisani said he believes that Obama’s economic team, led by Larry Summers, has a blind spot for small business because no senior member of the team — dominated by academics and veterans of big business — has ever started and grown a business.

I’m not sure that’s entirely fair, although it is plausible that encouraging small businesses to hire, inter alia, white, male high school graduates–the group that is currently hardest hit, compared to past recessions–is not a top priority for the administration. Be that as it may, it seems incontestable that the measures the administration has taken so far have been entirely ineffective, as far as employment is concerned. An administration not wholly blinded by ideology might be moved to consider the measures that worked so effectively to bring down unemployment after 1982.

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