NEW YORK ( BankingMyWay) -- What's really killing the U.S. economy? How about the financial peril that millions of young Americans face simply because they can't find a job. In fact, like links in a chain, the recent bad news on the economy has been to a large degree caused by the severe financial limitations placed on America's 18-29 demographic, and this dynamic will continue to handicap the U.S. economy for years to come. At least, this is the case being laid out by Generation Opportunity, a Washington, D.C.-based youth advocacy group that tracks the financial and cultural progress (or stagnancy, in this case) of young consumers. According to a Generation Opportunity
study, the actual jobless rate for U.S. young adults is 12.8%, or 4.6% higher than the general population (if you buy Uncle Sam's official jobless number, and many economists don't). According to Generation Opportunity, the list of ramifications from so many young and jobless Americans reads like a Defcon Five warning signal to the rest of the country: 77% of Americans 18-29 years old report delaying action due to the poor economy 44% delay buying a home 28% delay saving for retirement 27% delay paying off student loans or other debt 27% delay going back to school/getting more education or training 26% delay changing jobs/cities 23% delay starting a family 18% delay getting married Since those numbers cover America's next burgeoning consumer class, the data is a blow to not just the 18-29 demographic, but to the rest of the U.S.. Weaker financial clout for young adults hurts everyone -- small businesses, homebuilders, realtors, banks, investment firms, and even the federal government, which can expect lower tax revenues from younger taxpayers. According to the youth advocacy group, not only is the general unemployment number for 18-29-year-old Americans 12.8% as of June, but that number doesn't even count the 1.735 million young Americans who have given up looking for work, and are not counted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the government office that tallies the unemployed. If that 1.735 million group was factored into the equation, the real unemployment rate for young U.S. adults would be 16.8%, Generation Opportunity calculates. The youth advocacy organization doesn't mince words when it comes to laying the blame for these numbers at the manicured feet of Washington politicians. "For young Americans, through no fault of their own, their story is one of few opportunities, delayed dreams, and stalled careers," says Generation Opportunity president Paul Conway, former chief of staff for the Department of Labor. "Today's unemployment numbers tell the story of millions of young Americans who are paying the price for the failed policies coming out of Washington that have inhibited economic opportunity and job creation." "While leaders in Washington travel to communities to make campaign promises and seek to place blame for the results of their failed policies, young Americans are looking for more than rhetoric," Conway adds. "In 2012, their message to candidates is clear - we want to build our careers, get on with our lives, and fulfill our dreams. If the only solutions you offer mean less jobs and more debt for the country, the stakes are too high to risk our vote on a bad bet." Neither President Obama nor former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney can afford to take the youth vote for granted this November. Unfortunately for both -- and arguably more so for Obama -- millions of young Americans will have plenty of time to vote on the first Tuesday of November, and they'll likely crawl over broken glass to vote against the candidate they deem too weak on the unemployment issue. Can you blame them? After all, living on Ramen noodles and driving a 1992 Nissan Sentra will do that to a voter. --By Brian O'Connell Follow TheStreet on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.