Numbers reflect struggle for youth employment

Unemployment is all too real for John Pesek.

The Youngstown State University junior decided to continue his education when he was laid off from his job at Buckeye Hone Company, a manufacturing facility in his hometown of Mercer, Pennsylvania.

Though he receives financial aid to attend school, his $230 weekly unemployment checks stopped in September 2010, 99 weeks after he was laid off.

Unemployment benefits were continued after congress and the state legislature passed several emergency extensions in the wake of the 2008 recession.

Pesek has now resorted to relying on family and selling plasma.

“I started getting a lot of cheaper foods. It sounds so cliche for college, but I’m eating a lot of ramen noodles,” Pesek said. “Pretty much, I’m sick of noodles.”

Pesek drives home to Mercer County every weekend to work odd jobs for his parents, leaving little time for a social life.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for Ohioans aged 20 to 24 is 12 percent. Overall unemployment rate in Ohio is 8.7 percent.

Mahoning ranks 34 out of the 88 Ohio counties in unemployment, with 9.4 percent. Columbiana ranks 30 with 9.9 percent, and Trumbull ranks 45 with 8.9 percent.

According to a study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, a national group of researchers and scholars who study American economics and employment, nationwide unemployment for workers under 25 was 16 percent in 2011. This is a slight improvement from 19.6 percent in 2010, a repercussion of the Great Recession.

Tod Porter, professor and chair of the economics department at YSU, said both of these numbers are relatively high.

The typical rate in a good economy would be four to five percent for overall unemployment, Porter said.

Porter said it isn’t unusual for the youth unemployment rates to be higher than the overall average, as a number of variables affect the outcome.

“When the economy is bad, older workers take jobs that teenagers would normally have,” Porter said. Fast food jobs were one example he provided.

Most people aren’t letting go of their current positions, he added, resulting in a lack of new openings for the unemployed.

Porter said the numbers might not effectively illustrate actual unemployment.

The numbers are calculated by asking whether someone is actively working or searching for work. If a person is unemployed but not seeking work, he is not calculated into the unemployment percentage. Stay-at-home parents and retirees affect these numbers, Porter said.

“This is where unemployment may be an underestimate of those it affects,” Porter said. “The eighteen-year-old who could be going to school and got discouraged is now in the same group as your grandparents.”

According to a study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, college graduates in 2012 are being offered a 4.5 percent higher starting salary than 2011 graduates were offered.

Pesek said he hopes his references will land him one of these jobs after college.

The study also states that employers plan to hire 10.2 percent more college graduates.

That’s a statistic Pesek said he hopes to be a part of.