Lack of Jobs for Young Workers Spells 2012 Trouble for Obama

Young workers are especially frustrated with economy.

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Today's jobs report from the Labor Department contains more bad news for President Obama, and not simply because the monthly unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.1 percent in August.

What is of special concern to Democratic strategists is that young workers, aged 18 to 24, have an unemployment rate of 16.4 percent while many more are under-employed.

Young people were a core constituency for Obama in 2008 and if their support falls off significantly, it will be a serious blow to his re-election prospects. The availability of jobs is a key factor in determining that support, political strategists of both major parties agree.

[Read: Public Sector Losses Continue to Drive Poor Jobs Numbers.]

Matthew Segal, cofounder and president of Our Time, a national group that claims 300,000 members and works on behalf of Americans under 30, said the unemployment rate for young people "exposes our nation's ongoing neglect of young workers who also face the deepest student loan debt in history."

Segal added: "My generation is willing and ready to work immediately, yet we remain an untapped resource for American growth. We have an obtuse political system that rarely seeks the counsel, ideas, or perspectives of young entrepreneurs, business leaders or unemployed workers as part of any political economic advisory team. What kind of message is Washington sending my generation? They cozy up to us during campaign season, but when it comes time to create policy, we are overlooked."

[See why infrastructure might help the U.S. jobs situation.]

Republican congressional leaders, in a preview of their likely response to President Obama's scheduled speech on the economy next week, took a harsh view of the overall numbers. "Job growth continues to disappoint as millions of Americans struggle to find work in our troubled economy," said House Republican Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price, a representative from Georgia. "The agenda by the White House and Democrats in Congress has only compounded the uncertainty and the nation's fiscal challenges. That is why it is vital that next week--when the president addresses the nation about the jobs crisis--he offer something other than a retread of the same tired, failed policies of the past."

[See the 12 cities with the greatest employment gains.]

Meanwhile, White House officials found a bit of sunshine in the grim numbers. "The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.1 percent, a level that remains unacceptably high," noted Katherine Abraham, a member of the Council of Economic Advisers in a statement. Abraham also said, "Despite a slowdown in economic growth from substantial headwinds experienced throughout the year, the economy has added private sector jobs for 18 straight months for a total of 2.4 million jobs over that period. Clearly, faster growth is needed to replace the jobs lost in the downturn."

Abraham said that Obama will offer "series of additional bipartisan steps" in his speech next week to improve the economy and create jobs.

  • See what cities have the biggest unemployment numbers.
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  • Read analysis of Ben Bernanke's remarks in Jackson Hole.