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By Sunny Frothingham
June 5, 2015
Credit : AP/Alex Brandon.

In May, the unemployment rate for American youth ages 16 to 24 increased slightly to 12.2 percent, up from 11.6 percent in April. April’s rate of 11.6 percent was the lowest youth unemployment rate in seven years, and at 12.2 percent, the May youth unemployment is still less than it was for any month in the years 2009 to 2014.

The national unemployment rate remained virtually unchanged at 5.5 percent this month, slightly up from April’s 5.4 percent to match the rate from February and March 2015. Nonfarm payrolls added 280,000 workers in May, especially in professional and business services, hospitality, and health care.

Despite slight increases in both the national and youth unemployment rates in the month of May, both rates remain significantly below 2014 averages. That said, young people continue to face disproportionately high levels of unemployment compared to the national unemployment rate, and neither rate has fully recovered to prerecession levels.

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UNEMPLOYMENT AMONG YOUNG PEOPLE OF COLOR

Youth unemployment overall saw an increase in May, and this uptick is reflected in unemployment rates for youth of color, especially Black and Latino youth, who continue to see the highest unemployment rates.

In May, the unemployment rate for Black youth reached 20.7 percent, back up to the same rate as January of this year.

For young Latinos, the monthly unemployment rate increased by 1.3 percent to 12.1 percent, but remained below the overall youth unemployment rate.

Unemployment for Asian youth also saw an increase in May, up to 12.5 percent, exceeding the Latino youth unemployment rate for the first time this year.

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LABOR FORCE PARTICIPATION

In May, the Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR) for young Americans was 55.6 percent, a 1 percent increase from April, and slightly higher than any other month in 2015. Since October 2009, the youth LFPR has remained between 54 and 56 percent. The national LFPR has stagnated between 62.7 percent to 62.9 for the past year, and continued that pattern at 62.9 percent in May.

As the economy continues to recover, we expect the national and youth LFPR to increase instead of holding within the same range, because more people enter the work force when more jobs are available. While the LFPR for all ages appears to have halted its decline, a stagnant LFPR signals a need for more robust economic recovery.

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