Median income has fallen and unemployment rates have risen for younger Nebraskans, setting up a generation of workers for years of lower wages and depressed career prospects, according to a report released Wednesday by a national group that advocates for millennials.
The average employed Nebraskan 25 to 34 years old made 9 percent less money in 2011 than workers in the same age group in 2005, adjusted for inflation, according to the report from Young Invincibles that relies on U.S. Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
The group is also concerned by a drop in the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds in the state working full time and in any job, even given the growing number of young people in college.
“This is an enormous challenge facing our country,” said policy and research director Rory O'Sullivan. “The fact that so many young people are lacking in opportunities to work could have significant consequences for the United States and the state of Nebraska.”
The Young Invincibles organization describes itself as nonprofit and nonpartisan, and it is affiliated with the Center for Community Change, a left-leaning Washington, D.C.-based group.
Conservative young people are concerned about the same trends, even if they propose different solutions, said Evan Feinberg, president of Generation Opportunity, which advocates for 18- to 29-year-olds.
Feinberg agreed with Young Invincibles' data and shared the group's sense of alarm.
“We're very convinced that my generation is disproportionately suffering in this economy,” said Feinberg, 29. “We're coming out of schools, we've got skills, we've got passion, and we're finding that there's no opportunity.”
Feinberg, who ran for U.S. Congress in 2012, said, “Adding more job training programs for young people isn't going to get young people a job.”
Feinberg said government debt and rising taxes to fund entitlement programs are putting a burden on young workers. He said the answer is “less government and more freedom; less taxes, less regulation.”
O'Sullivan, on the other hand, proposed expanding opportunities for national service work and creating standards for high-quality apprenticeships.
He is concerned about cuts to the Workforce Investment Act. “We just think it doesn't make sense, when youth unemployment is so high, to be cutting programs that we know work.”
The unemployment rate for all Nebraskans has fallen each year since 2010, when it was 4.8 percent, to 3.8 percent in March.
But the picture hasn't improved for all younger workers. The unemployment rate rose from 4.5 percent to 4.8 percent from 2010 to 2012 for Nebraskans ages 25 to 34. It also rose for those 16 to 19, from 13.1 percent to 13.5 percent. Those in the middle, ages 20 to 24, saw unemployment fall from 7.6 percent to 7 percent in those three years.
For all age categories, the picture in Nebraska is better than the national average.
Correction: Evan Feinberg, president of Generation Opportunity, ran for U.S. Congress in 2012. An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the higher office Feinberg was seeking.
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