The Class of 2015: A Generation Stuck in 'Idle'

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- It appears that young people are increasingly stuck in idle.

According to a study released this week by the Employment Policy Institute, an increasing number of young people are simply falling out of the ranks of the working and educated altogether. More than 10% of young college graduates (between the ages of 21 and 24) are what economists call "idled," neither employed nor enrolled in school. More than 16% of young people with only high school degrees (ages 17 to 20) meet that same criteria.

Economists at the EPI based their analysis on Labor Department data following the recession. Young high school and college graduates tend to be unemployed at 2.2 times the national average, which, the EPI wrote, is "not because of something unique about the Great Recession" but because "young workers always experience disproportionate increases in unemployment during periods of labor market weakness."

What came as a surprise to researchers, however, was that this is a generation also beginning to avoid education as an alternative to a weak job market.

"Educational opportunity is often identified as a possible silver lining to the dark cloud of unemployment and underemployment that looms over today's young graduates," authors Alyssa Davis, Will Kimball and Elise Gould wrote. "The assumption is that a lack of job opportunities propels young workers to 'shelter' from the downturn by attaining additional schooling, which may improve their long-run career prospects."

"However," they added, "there is little evidence of an uptick in enrollment due to the Great Recession, and in fact, enrollment plummeted over 2012-2014 and still has not recovered."

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