The US economy in 2000 had really, really full employment — it was an era when labor was so scarce that McDonald’s was actively trying to recruit senior citizens, when the joke was that you could get a job as long as your breath would fog a mirror, that is, as long as you were actually alive.
Slackers at the Fed
5 YEARS AGO TODAY:
- 9/12/2008 Lehman and Its Staff Await Next Step
- 9/13/2008 Wall St. Goliath Teeters Amid Fear of Wider Crisis
- 9/14/2008 Leading Plan for Rescue Would Split Up Lehman
- 9/14/2008 Jittery Road Ahead
- 9/15/2008 Stunning Fall Stunning Fall for Main Street's Brokerage Firm
- 9/15/2008 Wall Street's Turmoil Sends Stocks Reeling
Like so many young Americans, Derek Wetherell is stuck.
At 23 years old, he has a job, but not a career, and little prospect for advancement. He has tens of thousands of dollars in student debt, but no college degree. He says he is more likely to move back in with his parents than to buy a home, and he doesn't know what he will do if his car—a 2001 Chrysler Sebring with well over 100,000 miles—breaks down.
"I'm kind of spinning my wheels," Mr. Wetherell says. "We can wishfully think that eventually it's going to get better, but we don't really know, and that doesn't really help us now."
Mr. Wetherell is a member of a lost generation, a group that is only now beginning to gain attention of many economists and employment experts. From Oakland to Orlando—and across the ocean in Birmingham and Barcelona—young people have come of age amid the most prolonged period of economic distress since the Great Depression.
Most, like Mr. Wetherell, have little memory of the financial crisis itself, which struck while they were still in high school. But they are all too familiar with its aftermath: the crippling recession, which made it all but impossible for many young people to get a first foothold in the job market, and the achingly slow recovery that has left the prosperity of their parents' generation out of reach—perhaps.
"This has been for quite a while now a hostile environment for young people," said Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center, which has studied the impact of the recession on young people. "This is all they've really known."
The financial crisis that struck five years ago this month opened up a sinkhole in the U.S. economy that swallowed Americans of all ages and backgrounds. Retirees lost life savings. Families lost homes. Millions of Americans lost their jobs.
Wanted: Jobs for the New 'Lost' Generation By BEN CASSELMAN and MARCUS WALKER
Five years after the 2008 crisis, younger adults still struggle to find work | Updated September 14, 2013, 4:26 p.m. ET
Employment-Population Ratio Ages 25-54
Data extracted on: September 15, 2013 (5:46:00 PM)
Ed says he remembers McDonald's recruiting seniors and, come to think of it, I have a vague memory of McDonald's scrambling to find workers, too. I certainly recall jokes about elderly greeters at Walmart. In fact, I recall the elderly greeters themselves.
Most of all, though, I remember reading scores of articles expressing panic over the coming mass retirement of baby boomers -- not because baby boomers would be so expensive to support but because who would replace them?
That was the horror story circa 2000.
Where will we find people to fill all the jobs?
Last spring Ed ran into an an Irvington parent who complained that the high school was still telling students SAT scores don't matter. She told Ed that when she graduated from college, with a B.A. in English, I believe, she got a good job on Wall Street "walking in off the street." No M.B.A., no training, no experience of any kind. She was alive, she was intelligent, she had a college degree, so--bam--she had a job. A good one.
That's the way things work in a thriving economy.
How a Market Crisis Unfolded