Idle Youth Raises "Lost Generation" Fear

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Waiting tables in New York City used to be a way station for aspiring actors and actresses, not career-stalled college graduates.

Twenty-four-year-old Elena Escalona has been looking for a job for a year, 75 cover letters, no offers later.

"How frustrated are you?" CBS News Correspondent Kelly Wallace asked Escalona.

"Extremely frustrated," Escalona said.

Since graduation, she's waitressed, interned, tutored, worried she'll never get on track.

"I mean it's almost an identity crisis; people ask, 'Oh what do you do?'" Escalona told Wallace. "I don't have an answer."

Only 44.3 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds - 16.7 million - had jobs in October. That's the lowest percentage since the government began keeping track in 1948.

BusinessWeek magazine says "The Lost Generation" may be damaged long term.

"The evidence is that people who enter into the workforce during a recession have lower incomes even as long as 15 years later," BusinessWeek's Peter Coy told Wallace.

A recent study found that 1982 grads, who faced a 9.7 percent unemployment rate, earned $120,000 less in the first 17 years of their career compared to grads in a period of low unemployment.

"The unfortunate reality is this generation is probably going to be worse off than their parents' generation," Tamara Draut, who wrote "Strapped: Why America's 20-and 30-Somethings Can't Get Ahead," told Wallace.

That's a problem for all of us because young people making less means lower tax revenues and less money for Social Security and Medicare.

For Escalona, unemployment doesn't just threaten her career aspirations. For months, she put her wedding plans on hold.

"I cannot get married without having my career," Escalona told Wallace. "I mean it's just something that is so important to me."

One of the "lost" generation is growing anxious about losing more time.