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Class of 2013 Enters Discouraging Job Market

Graduating high school and college students this spring are expected to face dim job-market prospects—for the fifth year in a row.

A new report from the Economic Policy Institute outlines the discouraging news about 16.2 percent unemployment for Americans younger than 25, along with low wages and underemployment for both high school and college students in the class of 2013.

"Young workers always experience disproportionate increases in unemployment during downturns," the report notes. "The Great Recession and its aftermath has been the longest, most severe period of economic weakness this country has experienced in more than seven decades."

The authors maintain that the unemployment crisis among young workers is not linked to graduates lacking the right education or skills. Instead, a weak demand for goods and services is fueling employers' reluctance to significantly increase hiring.

Recent figures underscore that it pays off to get more education.

The unemployment rate is 29.9 percent for young high school graduates and the underemployment rate is 51.5 percent. In 2007, about 17.5 percent were without jobs, and 29.4 percent were underemployed — meaning they held a part-time job despite desiring full-time work or were overqualified in education or skills for the position.

For new college graduates, the jobless rate is 8.8 percent (compared with 5.7 percent in 2007), and the underemployment rate is 18.3 percent (compared with 9.9 percent in 2007).

Those with jobs often face lower salaries than in the past. Real wages—those adjusted for inflation—dropped by 21.7 percent for high school graduates between 2000 and 2012 and 8.5 percent for young college graduates.

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