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Many Out-Of-Work Young Adults Face Shifting, Difficult Job Market

Associated Press
A 2016 file photo shows young people waiting to see job recruiters in Brooklyn.

After high school, there a lot of different paths to choose from — college, vocational training, work, to name a few. Anew report finds that millions of young adults who are looking for a job, can't find one.

Martha Ross is with the Brookings Institute. She talks with KERA's Justin Martin about their new research.

Interview Highlights

On why the market is so difficult for young adults:

Part of the problem is that young adults generally have a harder time finding work than folks with more experience in the labor market, more connections, higher levels of education; just by having had time in their lives to go to school and graduate, so that is part of it.

But part of it also is that there are not strong pathways into the labor market.

For a lot of young people for a lot of folks once you finish up with that the conveyor belt of K through 12 education there's not a clear linkage into the labor market.

Folks are on their own or they're reliant on their parents' connections. They might have had a teacher at school, but there's not a strong system.  

On what's changed:

There's been a huge ... decline in demand for workers with lower levels of education. Which means that there's just not as many jobs for folks without a college degree.

Of the millions of jobs that we lost in the recession, the majority of those were for people with a high school diploma or less; and of the jobs that we've gotten back the majority are for people with a college degree or at least some post-secondary education. So it is that the labor market is a tough arena. 

On the differences between counties:

It relates to the demographics of a place and the economic base. Dallas County has more people with lower levels of education. That's a big part of it. And then when you have more people with lower levels of education that then affects the kinds of employers that you draw into a place. 

So it can become either a virtuous cycle or a vicious cycle with the education of the populace attracting employment growth or not. 

On addressing the cause:

It's not the kind of problem often that leads to a quick solution within a governor's term or a mayor's term. So it's not as attractive as a ribbon cutting or running a summer jobs program, which can also be really useful. We're talking about reforming systems and helping people often with really complicated situations in their lives.

A lot of really creative thinking and action comes from the state and local level. It sort of depends on a given region or a given state what their own priorities are and what their own assets already are. Some areas have really strong community colleges. Other areas, they have really strong free standing job training programs in the absence of strong federal action on this, which seems unlikely.

I think we have to look to states and local areas to assess their own situation and develop strategies.

Martha Ross is a fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institute

Justin Martin is KERA’s local host of All Things Considered, anchoring afternoon newscasts for KERA 90.1. Justin grew up in Mannheim, Germany, and avidly listened to the Voice of America and National Public Radio whenever stateside. He graduated from the American Broadcasting School, and further polished his skills with radio veteran Kris Anderson of the Mighty 690 fame, a 50,000 watt border-blaster operating out of Tijuana, Mexico. Justin has worked as holiday anchor for the USA Radio Network, serving the U.S. Armed Forces Network. He’s also hosted, produced, and engineered several shows, including the Southern Gospel Jubilee on 660 KSKY.