VIDEO: Economists mixed on jobs report, but good news for young job seekers

The Takeaway

There was mixed news on jobs Friday.

The economy added more than 120,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate dipped to 8.6 percent. However, economists cautioned those numbers are a bit misleading. To really drive down unemployment back to around 6 percent, we need to be adding about 250,000 jobs a month. And, a big reason for this rate drop was more than 350,000 people left the work force.

For some, though, the news genuinely is good. In the past three months, 650,000 workers aged 16 to 24 have found jobs. This group, dubbed by some as “the lost generation,” has been especially hard hit with millions unemployed or underemployed.

Mike Munger, a political science and economics professor at Duke University, said it’s hard to know just how good this news is. It could be related to Black Friday and the Christmas shopping season, though the statistic do try to account for that.

Munger said the biggest problem for this demographic is that employers expect their new hires to have experience. Unfortunately, you can’t get experience until you get a job, which is hampering this age group, he said.

“It might very well be good news. We’re all looking for good news,” he said. “But, on the other hand, 400,000 new people filed for unemployment. So people are putting those numbers together and they’re scratching their heads.”

While there’s some uncertainty about the quality of these numbers, there is reason to hope.

“Most of the increase is in the 20-24 demographic. If things were getting better this is what you’d see. If things were getting better, this would be the first thing you’d see,” Munger said.

Munger said over the past months, all the positive signs have really turned out to be mirages, which give economists reasons to be skeptical of any good news they see.

Also, Munger said, most of these who found jobs would probably say it’s not in their career field.

“It’s good they’ve found some kind of job. Who knows what your career is going to be. If you find it and start to move up, at least you have a shot,” he said.

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