Young adults hit hardest in recessionary job market

College students and recent graduates fill out job applications and registration forms at the City University of New York Job Fair in New York City.

Steve Chiotakis: Fewer Americans filed for first time unemployment benefits last week. The Labor Department said applications shrank by 9,000 -- good news sure, but that' not enough to shrink the jobless rate.

A lot of those who are having a really tough time finding work are young people. The U.S. Census Bureau said today the latest recession did a terrible number on job prospects for 20-30 year olds -- and things aren't much better today.

Robert Lerman is a fellow at the Urban Institute and professor of economics at American University. He's with us now from Washington to talk about it. Professor, good morning.

Robert Lerman: Morning.

Chiotakis: I thought the world of the working was for the young -- why aren't young people getting jobs?

Lerman: In all recessions, young people are the last to get jobs, because it's much easier to keep somebody on a job than to hire new people. Young people tend to have higher turnover, and they don't have quite the same skills that the experienced person does.

Chiotakis: How does this data compare to other generations -- even Generation Xers and baby boomers, you know, the previous two generations before them?

Lerman: We're dealing with a very, very bad recession. And the last time that we had unemployment rates in this range was in the early '80s. Now that they're very high, its magnified all the more.

Chiotakis: I mean, is this about work ethic? Is it just because of the high unemployment rate? Lack of experience? What is it about? What can you put your finger on?

Lerman: Demand.

Chiotakis: Really?

Lerman: Part of it is the recession, of course. But part of it is that we don't do a good enough job of integrating young people.

Chiotakis: What do you think the long-term effect on these kids -- and I call them kids -- young adults, are?

Lerman: Yeah, they're going to have a barrier. But I'm not quite as pessimistic as some of the other analysts that the scaring will be that dramatic. There will be permanent loss, but if we can get the economy to recover, then I think you'll see them take advantage of some of the opportunities.

Chiotakis: Robert Lerman, a fellow at the Urban Institute and professor of economics over at American University. Professor, thanks!

Lerman: Thank you.

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