They're called the "invincibles" and the "lost generation." Today's young American adults have had to endure one of the worst recessions in 70 years and then watch as their futures seemingly evaporate before them.
Many are educated, stuck in dead-end jobs or unemployed, living with their parents and seeking government assistance.
"If these persons are not quickly reconnected with the economy and the workforce, we are truly looking at a lost generation in terms of upward mobility and productivity," said Joe Minarik, director of research for the Committee for Economic Development, a nonprofit, public policy research group.
A recent report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York sheds some light on just how severe the jobs crisis is for young adults.
Using Census data, the researchers found that the percentage of unemployed young adults—currently about twice the national average—and those who are underemployed or working in jobs that don't require the degrees they hold, has risen steadily since the 2001 recession.
Research indicates that through 2012, about 44 percent of young, working college graduates were underemployed and the quality of jobs held by those underemployed has declined, with today's recent graduates increasingly accepting low wage jobs or part-time work, sometimes pushing other low-skilled workers out of the labor market.
What it costs
The youth jobs crisis is costing the U.S. economy and may continue to do so for years, further hindering this generation's ability to contribute to economic growth.
One report from a youth advocacy group called the Young Invincibles, measuring only lowered tax revenue and safety net costs, found that high unemployment among millennials, ages 18-34, costs the U.S. more than $25 billion annually. And jobless rates for millennials have been in double digits for nearly six years with the youngest among them, ages 16-24, experiencing the highest rate at 15 percent.
Other studies put the cost of youth unemployment at several hundred million dollars a year. Experts say this trend could undo many gains of the economic recovery.
"At a time of tight budgets when we're already trying to recover from the recession and invest in things like education, … having so many people out of work, we're really shooting ourselves in the foot here," said Rory O'Sullivan, Young Invincibles' policy director and chief author of the report.
To be fair, higher unemployment and underemployment for young workers isn't unusual as they generally have a tougher time in the labor market because they're the least connected to the workforce. But some economists believe this is more than a cyclical labor trend.
Recent figures suggest there has been a reversal in demand for cognitive skills. A report published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that since 2000, businesses have needed fewer people to perform high-tech jobs that initially drove the information economy.