Few groups were hit harder by the recession than young men, like Cody Preston and Justin Randol, 25-year-old high-school buddies who didn’t go to college.
The unemployment rate for males between 25 and 34 years old with high-school diplomas is 14.4%—up from 6.1% before the downturn four years ago and far above today’s 9% national rate. The picture is even more bleak for slightly younger men: 22.4% for high-school graduates 20 to 24 years old. That’s up from 10.4% four years ago.
In contrast to those men, Messrs. Preston and Randol are old enough to have had some time in the job market. They worked together installing granite counters before the housing bust.
Mr. Preston married his girlfriend and settled into what he assumed would be a secure pattern of long hours on job sites and enough cash to travel and enjoy restaurants and bars. Mr. Randol at one point felt flush enough to buy a 63-inch television set and a 50-gallon fish tank for his apartment.
Then the recession hit. Neither man has found steady work since that pays as much as he earned before. Mr. Preston’s marriage broke up and he moved back in with his parents, an increasingly common pattern for jobless young men. Mr. Randol has made do with help from girlfriends and by living in houses packed with roommates to keep the rent low.
For such men, high unemployment is eroding their sense of economic independence. Their predicament reflects that of a generation of Americans facing one of the weakest job markets in modern history. (Read more.)