There was an important op-ed piece tucked away in the Sunday New York Times — The Frustrations of the Educated and Unemployed American. Written by a “24-year-old American” Matthew Klein, it goes to the heart of the dangers of the slowed economy:
About one-fourth of Egyptian workers under 25 are unemployed, a statistic that is often cited as a reason for the revolution there. In the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in January an official unemployment rate of 21 percent for workers ages 16 to 24.
. . .
The cost of youth unemployment is not only financial, but also emotional. Having a job is supposed to be the reward for hours of SAT prep, evenings spent on homework instead of with friends and countless all-nighters writing papers. The millions of young people who cannot get jobs or who take work that does not require a college education are in danger of losing their faith in the future. They are indefinitely postponing the life they wanted and prepared for; all that matters is finding rent money. Even if the job market becomes as robust as it was in 2007 — something economists say could take more than a decade — my generation will have lost years of career-building experience.
In other words, we are throwing away an important intangible asset — an asset we can afford to lose and one we will have a hard time getting back.
So in the middle of all the debate about strengthening our competitiveness by improving education, lets spend a little time also thinking about the resources that are slipping through our hands. That includes not only the young people who can’t find jobs, but the middle-age workers whose skills are eroding while they try to make ends meet on rapidly expiring unemployment benefits and food stamps.
Surely we can do better.