The April 2012 employment situation summary from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a continuation of the apparent slow-down in job growth that began in March. With just enough jobs added in April to keep up with the expanding population and fewer people participating in the weak labor market, the drop in the unemployment rate to 8.1 percent denotes a lethargic recovery rather than the kind of improvement that workers can celebrate. As is typical, young people faced higher unemployment rates than other groups in the April economy. But 25- to 34-year-olds are closing the gap.
With a smaller decline in labor force participation than the population overall and a positive change in employment level, for the first time since July of 2008 this group is not experiencing higher unemployment rates than the economy as a whole. That sounds like good news, but 8.1 percent unemployment translates to 2.7 million 25- to 34-year-olds searching for jobs without success. It is, however, a better showing than even younger workers, who experienced both a drop in employment level and a decline in labor force participation greater than the national rate. Because of these trends, among 20- to 24-year-olds the unemployment rate remained a disheartening 13.2 percent.
There can be only minor consolation for young adults from the positive trend in the employment-population ratio. This measure shows the proportion of the total population that actually worked, and so takes into account those who are looking for employment and those who are not – unlike the unemployment rate. Despite fluctuations in the data from month-to-month, young people have seen lagging overall gains since sputtering-out in 2010.