Despite well-intended assertions by President Barack Obama and others that the economy is making a turn for the better, widespread joblessness persists.
And, according to D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, unemployment among recent college graduates is even worse.
“We must help our young people find jobs,” Norton said. “The longer it takes for our young people to kick start their careers, the longer it will take them to catch up. The setbacks these recent college grads are facing now mean significant reduction in their lifetime income later.”
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported that the jobless rate for individuals between the ages of 16 and 24 stood at 20 percent in August, which is higher than the national rate. Furthermore, the numbers tend to increase sharply between April and July each year, indicating a post-graduation surge.
This summer for instance, the youth labor force grew by 2.4 million, or 11.5 percent, to a total of 22.9 million in July, according to the BLS. As a result, the Class of 2010 is likely to lag behind their less-educated counterparts in finding employment.
But local economists say that because the District of Columbia in particular, has the distinction of being the country’s best big city for recent college graduates, many have begun flocking to the city hoping to land at least entry-level jobs and internships to jump start their careers. Otherwise, they are opting to stay in their hometowns and other venues where they find themselves competing for jobs as waitresses, file clerks, pizza delivery drivers and the like. “The Washington area has been generating jobs this year and it’s always been viewed as a place where professional jobs are more abundant,” Stephen Fuller, a George Mason University public policy professor, told the AFRO.
He said that since the first of the year, the District has acquired 63,000 new jobs, and that 20,000 are federal jobs. Another 12,000 are in retail, he said, adding that the hospitality sector is also growing.
“If you’re educated and you’re young and a little flexible about the kind of job you will accept, Washington is an exciting place,” Fuller said. “And it became even more exciting when President Obama took office a year and a half ago.”
But Fuller also noted that while a lot of jobs which have opened up are not necessarily high-paying, they are interesting to young professionals.
“These people are all over Washington, Arlington and Silver Spring because they like urban life and the vibrancy that comes with the expanded role of the federal government,” he said.
While Norton’s emphasis is on a nationwide crisis, Katharyn Edwards, a researcher for the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute, said that since the recession started three years ago, D.C. has been one of three districts to actually acquire jobs gains. The other two places are Alaska and the Dakotas, but the District has had the most job growth she said.
“Since 2007, D.C. has gained a 4.3 percent job growth,” said Edwards, who herself migrated to the District for work. “But its unemployment rate is 9.3 percent, one of the highest and has consistently been among the country’s highest.”
Edwards said that at the same time, D.C. has been gaining jobs, a lot of the people who work in the city don’t live there. “And that’s probably why a lot of job growth isn’t going to the city’s residents,” she said.
Meanwhile, Norton spokesperson Kim Atterbury said the congresswoman has plans to further investigate the issue “to see if there’s some sort of congressional action she can take” to alleviate the matter.