This is a terrible time to be young and looking for a job.
Just 54% of adults between the ages of 18 and 24 are currently employed, according to a new study released by the Pew Research Center. This figure represents the lowest level of employment since the government began collecting records in 1948.
As if that news wasn't bleak enough, young adults who are employed full time have experienced a larger drop in weekly pay (6%) than any other group over the last four years.
Not surprisingly, other younger Americans have been feeling the job squeeze too. Among all 18- to 34-year-olds, 49% say they have taken a job that they didn't want, and 24% are working for free to gain work experience. Discouraged by poor job prospects, more than a third have returned to school, which can backfire if the extra schooling generates a large amount of student loans.
Grim job statistics
Here are more sobering figures for 18- to 34-year-olds:
- 24% have moved back in with their parents after living on their own.
- 20% have delayed getting married.
- 22% have postponed having a baby.
- Only 30% consider their current job a career.
The age of financial independence
Faced with this new economic reality, parents have adjusted their attitudes about when their children should become financially independent. Nearly 20 years ago, a Newsweek poll revealed that 80% of parents with young kids thought that their children should be financially independent by the age of 22. Today just 67% of parents believe that. About a third of parents think that their sons and daughters should be on their own by age 25 or later.
Here's the good news
Young adults remain optimistic that their financial lives will improve. Almost nine in 10 say they are either earning enough money now or will in the future. This enthusiasm, by the way, hasn't wavered since 2004.
Age, however, dampens that enthusiasm: Only 28% of Americans, who are 35 or older, say they expect to make enough money in the future.
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