The unemployment rate has been below 4% for 30 months, a near record, but there are still many individuals who are struggling to find a job. Some of these individuals, known as NEETs, are not in employment, education, or training. This group often consists of individuals who are discouraged by their economic standing and are choosing to opt out of the labor force. According to a recent report by Korn Ferry, there is also a segment of well-qualified but younger candidates who are finding it difficult to secure positions, creating a contingent of “new unemployables.”

In May, the unemployment rate among 16- to 24-year-olds rose to 9%, which is considered typical during relatively good economic times, according to labor economist Alí Bustamante. While the youth unemployment rate fell below 7% in 2023, Bustamante notes that such lows were indicative of a very strong labor market at that time. However, in 2023, approximately 11.2% of young adults in the U.S. were classified as NEETs, highlighting the fact that a significant portion of young people are being left out of opportunities for employment and skill development.

There is a growing trend of disengagement among young men, particularly in traditionally male-dominated fields such as construction and manufacturing. Labor economist Julia Pollak notes that the NEET trend is more prevalent among males, as women’s enrollment in education and employment has been on the rise. This decline in opportunities for young men, combined with the talent hoarding by employers, has created a challenging job market for many highly trained individuals.

The class of 2024 is facing a 5.8% decrease in hiring projections compared to the previous year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. This reduction in job opportunities has led to a higher level of competition among candidates, resulting in longer periods of unemployment. As firms focus on talent mobility and limit new hires, finding entry-level positions has become even more challenging for early 20-somethings. Despite these trends, there are still strategies that individuals can employ to enhance their job prospects.

In a market where opportunities are limited, job seekers are advised not to wait but to proactively reach out to former colleagues and employers for informational interviews and job leads. Making oneself more visible through industry-related writing and updating resumes with relevant keywords can also increase the chances of landing a job. It is essential not to limit oneself to roles that offer immediate promotions or raises but to focus on building a career lattice that involves gaining valuable skills for future success.

Overall, the rise of NEETs and the challenges faced by young adults in the job market highlight the need for proactive measures to secure employment and develop skills in a competitive environment. By adapting to the changing landscape of the job market and taking strategic steps to enhance one’s visibility and skills, individuals can overcome the hurdles posed by the current economic climate and pave the way for a successful career trajectory.


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