NC in Focus: Economic Activity of Young Adults

“Young adults ages 20 to 24 are more likely to be neither working nor enrolled in school than their counterparts two decades ago. […] The numbers are worrying because people in their early twenties are at a critical juncture in their lives. The questions they’re tackling—What should I do for a living? Should I get a degree in this or that? How can I land a good first job?—will shape the rest of their lives. The longer these kids are detached from both school and work—and by extension, their peers—the more they run the risk of harming their future prospects, and society’s.” – Neil Shah, “Are More Young Adults Falling Through the Cracks?,” Wall Street Journal

Nationwide, about 19% of young adults were neither enrolled in school nor working last year. In North Carolina, this proportion was even higher: 23.3% or 161,000 young adults were neither working nor attending school in 2013. Just over half of these individuals (11.8%) wanted to work but were unemployed; the other half (11.5%) were not in the labor force at all. Among those not in the labor force, about a third (3.5% of all young adults) stated that they were “unable to work.” Other reasons for leaving the labor force—such as being a stay-at-home parent or being a discouraged worker—were not captured in the data.

NC Young Adult Economic Activity_CD

About Rebecca Tippett

Rebecca Tippett is Director of Carolina Demography at UNC-Chapel Hill's Carolina Population Center.
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