The class of 2012 is graduating from community colleges, four-year colleges and universities all across America this month. When they toss their caps in the air, I suggest you duck -- because this graduating class has a lot to protest. While overall U.S. unemployment has dropped to about 8 percent -- in part because many Americans have simply given up looking for work -- recent college grads face a much more dismal reality: one out of every two was either jobless or underemployed in 2011.
To combat this epidemic, the Young Entrepreneur Council recently launched the national #FixYoungAmerica campaign. In April, we held a #FixYoungAmerica rally on 300+ college campuses in all 50 states, in which tens of thousands of students participated, and this week, we released #FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good) a book of essays written by nonprofit founders, educators, politicians and entrepreneurs who shared their own entrepreneurial solutions for ending the youth unemployment crisis in America. Unfortunately, throughout the campaign, what we’ve really uncovered is just how bad chronic unemployment really is for young people right now, including college grads. The fact is, young Americans need all the help they can get, and they need it now.
What’s the class of 2012 up against? Take a look for yourself:
- 1 out of 2 college grads -- about 1.5 million, or about 53.6 percent, of bachelor's degree holders age 25 or younger -- were unemployed or underemployed in 2011.
- Fewer than half of college grads from the class of 2008 to today found jobs within a year of graduation -- down from 73 percent.
- For high school grads (age 17-20), the unemployment rate was 31.1 percent from April 2011-March 2012; underemployment was 54 percent.
- For young college grads (age 21-24), unemployment was 9.4 percent last year, while underemployment was 19.1 percent.
- 3 in 5 young college grads are unemployed or underemployed in the Mountain West region of the United States. The next-worst regions for being a young college grad looking for work? The Southeast and Pacific regions.
- The share of employed young adults (aged 18-24) is at a 60-year low. It has dropped to 54.3 percent -- the lowest level since government began tracking it in 1948.
- The unemployment rate for young Americans under 25 is twice that of the general population.
- Only 56 percent of American teenagers believe they’ll be as well off as their parents financially-- a 37 percent drop since 2011.
- Only 1 in 5 college grads thinks their generation will be more successful than the generations before them.
- Only 18 percent of American teens say they’ll be financially independent when they turn 20 -- compared to 44 percent in 2011.
- The 15-percentage-point gap between young and working-age adults right now is the widest in recorded history.
- While overall unemployment is around 8 percent, 29.1 percent of young male veterans and 36.1 percent of young female veterans age 18-24 were unemployed 2011—compared to 17.6 and 14.5 percent, respectively, of nonveteran young men and women.
- Young American women still earn less than young American men, regardless of their educational background.
- According to some researchers, up to 95 percent of job positions lost occurred in low-tech, middle-income jobs like bank tellers. Gains in jobs are going to workers at the top or the bottom, not in the middle.
- More college graduates are getting low-level jobs, period. U.S. bachelor’s degree holders are more likely to wait tables, tend bar or become food-service helpers than to be employed as engineers, physicists, chemists or mathematicians combined -- 100,000 versus 90,000.
- More recent grads are working in administrative jobs than in all professional computer jobs out there -- 163,000 versus 100,000.
- More college grads are cashiers, retail clerks or customer representatives than engineers -- 125,000 versus 80,000, to be exact.
- Of young Americans aged 18-34, half have taken a job they didn't want in order to pay bills.
- Of young college graduates from the class of '08 to today, four in 10 took jobs just to get by.
- 24 percent of young Americans aged 18 to 34 said they took an unpaid job for work experience.
- According to new U.S. government projections, only three of the 30 occupations with the largest projected number of job openings in the next eight years will require a bachelor's degree or higher. Most job openings by 2020 will be in low-wage professions like retail sales, fast food and truck driving.
- More than 35 percent of young Americans went back to school because of the economy.
- 31 percent of young Americans postponed getting married or having a baby due to their financial situation.
- Since 2006, 40 percent of college grads have put off major purchases like buying homes or cars.
- One in four young Americans moved back in with their parents AFTER living on their own.
- Median earnings for young African Americans are only 75 percent of the earnings of whites. For young Latinos, the number is even lower -- 68 percent.
- Between 2000 and 2011, the wages of young high school grads declined by 11.1 percent; of young college grads, 5.4 percent.
- Almost half -- 41.3 percent -- of 25 to 34-year-old young Americans spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent every month.
- The majority of recession-era college grads rely on financial help from their families.
- Credit card debt has risen 81 percent among young Americans aged 25-34 since 1989.
- The student loan default rate rose 31 percent over just two years.
- Student loan debt is reaching debt-bubble proportions -- it recently topped $1 trillion (and exceeds total credit card debt in the United States).
- Two out of three college students now graduate with student loan debt. Average tuition is three times higher today than in 1980.
- Average student loan debt is now more than $25,000.
- African American students are more likely to take out student loans and graduate, on average, with higher levels of debt.
- Federal student loan default rate is 8.8 percent and projected to rise.
- Although 92 percent of young Americans aged 21-24 said they felt entrepreneurship education was vital given the realities of the new economy and job market, more than half (56 percent) were never offered entrepreneurship classes at all.*
- Most -- 62 percent -- students who were offered entrepreneurship classes said they didn't feel the classes prepared them enough to start a business.*
- Of employed young Americans aged 18-34, less than half think they have the education and training they need to get ahead in their jobs today.
- More than 53 percent of U.S. companies say they’re having trouble finding skilled non-managerial employees, in spite of the high number of unemployed Americans.
- 72 percent of youth said they do not feel they have enough support from banks, up from 65 percent in 2010.*
- 86 percent of recent grads feel they do not have enough support from the government (YEC/Buzz 2011).*
- Finally, 52 percent of young Americans 18-29 feel the U.S. is headed in the wrong direction.
*Data is from the 2011 Youth Entrepreneurship Survey conducted by Buzz Marketing Group and the Young Entrepreneur Council (of young Americans ages 21-24).
Scott Gerber is a serial entrepreneur, internationally syndicated columnist and TV host, and the founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council. He is also an active angel investor and author of the book Never Get a "Real" Job.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently published #FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good), a book of 30+ proven solutions to help end youth unemployment.