Unexpectedly Intriguing!
August 16, 2010

On 12 August 2010, CNBC reported on data provided by the International Labor Organization that global youth unemployment had hit a record high:

The report from the ILO says 81 million out of 630 million 15-24 year olds where [sic] unemployed at the end of 2009, some 7.8 million more than at the end of 2007.

We wondered how many of that increase of 7.8 million unemployed teens and young adults might be Americans. So first, we found out how the population of individuals between the ages of 16 and 24 changed from 2007 through 2009. Using the not-seasonally adjusted labor force statistics from the U.S. Census' Current Population Survey, which provides the estimated popluation size for this age group, to see if any dramatic swings have occurred in that demographic bracket over these years.

We found that the population of Age 16-24 individuals in the U.S. from 2007 through 2009 has been nearly rock steady, increasing from an average of 37,409,000 in 2007 to 37,568,000 in 2009, an increase of 159,000 in all, the change representing the result of an annualized growth rate of 0.2%.

Next, we compared the average number of employed individuals in 2007 with the number of employed individuals in 2009. Looking again at the not-seasonally adjusted data, we found an average number of 19,875,000 employed teens and young adults in 2007, compared to an average of 17,601,000 employed young people in 2009, a decline of 2,274,000.

Increase in Global Youth Unemployment from 2007 to 2009 To determine the total change in the number of unemployed teens and young adults then, we added the 159,000 increase in this demographic group's population to the 2,274,000 decline in the number of individuals between the ages of 16 and 24 counted as being employed between 2007 and 2009. Doing so, we find the total number of unemployed individuals between the ages of 16 and 24 in the United States increased by 2,433,000 during just these two years.

Which means that 31% of the increase in global youth unemployment between 2007 and 2009 occurred just in the United States. By contrast, the United States has just 6.0% of the entire world's population of 630,000,000 teens and young adults.

And of course, tough times for U.S. teens and young adults also means tough times for the businesses that cater to teens and young adults, as retailers who target this demographic group have significantly upped the number of discounts and giveaways they offer to attract sales thanks to record teen unemployment:

Teen-focused retailers, which generally had a rough July, are suffering from a more challenging environment as teen unemployment is at record levels. That means young people have less money for new back-to-school clothes, leaving parents to pick up the slack.

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