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Young and broke

BY SIMEON TALLEY | DECEMBER 10, 2009 7:30 AM

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All I want for Christmas is a j-o-b!

Students graduating this December will graduate into the worst job market in recent memory. Youth already tenuously in the job market are feeling increasingly insecure about their own prospects. And while you may not find a job right away, you will find a student loan notice six months after graduation.

So with the holidays fast approaching, many are asking, hoping, and praying to land a decent — while still desirable — job.

The outlook seems, quite frankly, gloomy. The good news is that unemployment is now at 10 percent, slightly down from 10.2 percent. The bad news is that unemployment is at 10 percent. After the federal government injected billions of dollars into the largest banks to stabilize the financial industry and Congress passed an $800 billion stimulus package, the economy, while not crippled, is limping along the road to recovery.

To cope, students are graduating and not looking for job offers but internship opportunities. More and more students are applying to graduate programs in hopes that they’ll have a graduate or law degree when someone is hiring again. And some have decided to pack it up and head back home after graduation. For those of you who are headed into the workforce and are desiring to do so, consider yourself fortunate.

Many qualified and eager students looking for jobs are finding themselves in precarious economic situations, to say the least. What I fear most, though, is that there is a lack of urgency and focus on great jobs and opportunities for young people as we emerge out of the recession. Extended unemployment while young creates all types of problems and impediments to earning potential as youth mature in the labor market, as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has argued.

But there is something else that policymakers and even economists are missing. Anyone with a rudimentary grasp of economics understands that the business cycle is cyclical — there are booms and busts, there are times of economic recession and expansion. The point being, we’ll emerge out of this recession, employers will begin to add to their payrolls once again, and jobs will be created.

But this is no ordinary economic recession. This “Great Recession” has unmasked deep structural imbalances in our economy as a whole. The fact that the failure of a handful of the largest financial institutions precipitated the meltdown of the entire global economy is evidence.

Our problems go farther and deeper than the reliance on finance to drive growth. Economic malaise and uncertainty predates this recession. As I’ve previously written, the youth have experienced declining wages and skyrocketing student debt for more than a decade. We are lagging behind European countries and even emerging economies like China in clean-energy investment.

So here is my Christmas wish for this holiday: that President Obama gives another major, prime time speech. But this time, he should give it in front of the country’s youth, and at a specifically youth venue. And in that speech, he should put forth a bold and innovative agenda to create jobs and opportunities for young people in the 21st century. That speech should outline not only a commitment to a green economy, but should incorporate the energy and creativity of young people to make it a reality. And it should ask young people to be a part of the solution to fixing the country’s problems.

This has been no ordinary recession. Although we may be emerging out of recession, the need to create jobs remains imperative.

And those graduating and still tirelessly searching for unemployment understand this better than others.


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