October showed positive signs for the economy, with 161,000 jobs added and unemployment falling slightly to 4.9 percent. The youth unemployment rate, which tracks workers aged 16 to 24, increased slightly, to 10.4 percent. However, this rate still falls under the 2016 year-to-date average of 10.5 percent, and is significantly lower than the 2015 average youth unemployment rate of 11.6 percent. In 2014, the average youth unemployment rate was 13.4 percent–a full two percentage points higher than the October rate. The youth unemployment rate has generally fallen from recession levels, which often topped 17 percent.
Meanwhile, some youth still see unemployment averages above 17 percent because of their racial and ethnic backgrounds. Black youth in particular face acutely higher unemployment rates than their white, Asian, and Latino peers. In October, the black youth unemployment rate rose to 18.3 percent, while white youth unemployment fell slightly to 8.8 percent, Latino youth unemployment dropped to 10.7 percent, and Asian youth unemployment climbed to 8.3 percent. The black youth unemployment rate is nearly 8 points higher than the unemployment rate for any other racial or ethnic demographic studied (because of issues with the sample size, the Native American youth unemployment is not included).
The youth labor force participation rate (LFPR), which identifies the proportion of people 16 to 24 who are working or actively seeking work, remains a source of concern. In October, the youth LFPR fell to 54.9 percent, meaning just 54.9 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds are working or actively seeking work. Before the recession, this figure hovered above 60 percent. The 2005 yearly average was 60.8 percent, in 2006 it was 60.6, and the youth LFPR never fell below 60 percent between 2000 and 2006. As is seen in the graph below, during the recession the youth LFPR declined much more precipitously than the overall LFPR, which tracks all workers 16 and older. In October the overall LFPR was 62.8 percent.