03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Young And The Jobless: Unemployment's Lasting Effects

The future doesn't look so shiny and bright, especially for young people, who are finding the job market tougher going than the older generation. The unemployment rate in the U.S. for 16-to-24 year olds has spiked from 13% a year ago to more than 18%. Recent college graduates are feeling particularly anxious, BusinessWeek finds, with the following figures providing ample reason:

According to a BusinessWeek analysis, college graduates aged 22 to 27 have fared worse than their older educated peers during the downturn. Two years ago, 84.4% of young grads had jobs, only somewhat lower than the 86.8% figure for college graduates aged 28 to 50. Since then, the employment gap between the two groups has almost doubled.

Studies suggest that prolonged youth joblessness can lead to lower incomes in the long-run, with individuals being placed in jobs beneath their abilities. But what can be done as more applicants grapple for even fewer positions? More job training, and apprenticeship programs such as those in Germany and Great Britain. However, job programs for the young in the U.S. haven't been a priority, due to massive budget deficits.

Free-market economists favor removing obstacles to employment of the young, such as high minimum wages. "The government in some ways is contributing to this problem," says Kristen Lopez Eastlick, senior research analyst for the employer-backed Employment Policies Institute. She points out that the 40% hike in the federal minimum wage over the past two years made it less appealing to hire young workers. One possibility: Some U.S. states and European countries have enacted subminimum wages just for young people or people enrolled in apprenticeships.

The youth unemployment crisis is mirrored in a New York Times profile of Kristy and Katie Barry, twins from Ohio who have applied for more than 150 Manhattan-based jobs in the past year, without so much as an interview. They're making ends meet with bartending and odd jobs such as dogwalking. But the way in which the twins go about their job hunt, while enthusiastic and creative, make it painfully clear that college graduates needs more preparation and skills to equip them for the search.

Ways You Can Dig Deeper for Jobs

•Reach out to college alumni networks, which are established precisely for networking and mentoring opportunities.

•Go beyond Craigslist. Targeted job boards and networks, such as Mediabistro (media and publishing), Idealist (nonprofits and volunteerism) and The Vault (sales, finance and consulting) are more focused in nature.

•Professional networking sites such as LinkedIn and Brazen Careerist make it easier to establish your professional identity online and establish and develop new contacts.

•Follow leaders in the industry. Find and develop mentors by contacting individuals that you admire with a short e-mail. Ask questions and for a few pieces of advice. If you get a reply, continue the conversation with a request to meet in person for coffee or a quick lunch. Here's Penelope Trunk's 7 Steps to Finding and Keeping a Mentor.

&Networking groups with offline gatherings such as, gives you a way to find people with similar interests and potential leads.

•Volunteer opportunities and internships are a foot in the door that may lead to full-time employment after the downturn.

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