It’s that time of year: millions of high school and college students burst out of the classrooms and into the labor force. Except once again this year, they won’t find many jobs. Young people of color have been among the hardest hit in the downturn, and one of the slowest to bounce back in the ongoing jobless recovery. The overall unemployment rate among people aged 16 to 24 in 2010 was 18.4 percent, which is double the rate for the population overall and worse than it’s been in the 60 years that economists have collected the data, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
It’s an easy assumption that these numbers are about people who don’t finish school. That’s false comfort. Even among those who’ve made the right choices—be it finishing high school or loading up debt to get a college degree—jobless rates are shocking. And the longstanding racial disparity among college graduates has grown markedly worse in the course of the downturn. Between 2007 and 2010, unemployment among white college graduates under the age of 25 climbed by just over 3 percent; it shot up by more than 7 points for Latinos and nearly 6 points for African Americans. It’s a cautionary footnote on the president’s plan for “winning the future” through education. The future demands jobs to go with those degrees.