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Retired Business Editor to Unemployed Youth ‘Get Off My Lawn!’

"Get off my lawn!" (image: macwagen/flickr)

A blog post by Mark Price.

Jack Markowitz, a retired editor, has a column in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review this morning where he argues that high unemployment among today’s youth is the result of poor personal habits and values. Markowitz bases this argument on a story he tells about two young men — one employed with a failed marriage and living with his parents rent free, and the other an unemployed ex-convict. Markowitz is, in effect, arguing that the rise in unemployment is the result of a wholesale outbreak of vice among the young which happened to coincide with the beginning of the recession.

This is absurd. Youth unemployment is at record highs because unemployment generally in the economy is at record highs. Young workers have the highest unemployment rates because, with the least amount of job market experience, they are typically the least likely to be picked from a stack of resumes to be offered a job interview, not to mention a job.

Markowitz argues that if today’s youth were not scrofulous ne’er-do-wells, they would fill one of the 3.35 million job openings there were in September. What he fails to mention is that with 14 million unemployed workers, there are 4.2 unemployed workers for every job opening. That ratio, as the chart below illustrates, is abnormally high. [cont’d.]

Markowitz also makes an error that I’m starting to see more and more. He assumes it’s abnormal for there to be unfilled job openings in the month of September as measured by the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS).

Employers do not fill job openings instantly, nor do they necessarily fill them within 30 days. In other words, the JOLTS will never report there were zero unfilled job openings in a month, and it is incorrect to assume that the levels reported each month imply that employers are on average having difficulty filling job openings.

It takes time for employers to choose who to hire even in a period of high unemployment. If employers were having widespread difficulty filling job openings, we would see wages rising rapidly and we are not seeing that.

An excellent data-based review of the struggles of today’s youth has been produced by Demos, in collaboration with Young Invincibles.

Your local paper will likely have some good news on jobs this morning as the Department of Labor and Industry released metropolitan area level data on the employment situation in October. For Pennsylvania, the October job numbers were good with unemployment falling and nonfarm payrolls rising. As you would expect, that pattern held true for most of Pennsylvania’s metropolitan areas in October.

Here are the stories I found. If I missed one, please let me know in the comments.

The Federal Reserve took action on the situation in Europe. Here are two excellent explanations of what happened and what it means.

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