Don’t look at these long-term and youth unemployment numbers if you like good news
Europe’s definition of “long-term unemployment” is twice as depressing as our own. In the U.S., you have to be out of work and looking for a job for six months to count as long-term unemployed. In Europe, it’s 12 months. But it’s not just how they define long-term unemployment that’s depressing — it’s their levels of it, too. As you can see in the chart below that compares long-term unemployment rates across Europe in 2007 and 2011 (the latest year for which we have figures), it’s really a tale of two continents. The PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain) and Baltics are getting crucified on a cross of euros, euro-pegged currencies, and austerity. Everybody else is doing fine to meh.
That brings us to our second scariest chart. The young have taken a big part, though certainly not all, of the jobless hit — even in the continent’s better-performing economies. The reality isn’t quite as bad as the stories you may have heard about half of all Greek youths being out of work, since those numbers don’t account for kids in school or training programs, but it’s still bad enough. As you can see in the chart below, the percent of youths (defined as aged 15 to 24) who are neither working nor in school nor receiving some kind of training is still high enough to cause serious worry. Outside of Germany, it’s edged up everywhere, if not outright spiked. It’s not a good time to be young in Latvia. Or Ireland. Or Greece. Or Spain. Or Italy.
The toxic combination of careers deferred and discontinued for long periods can create what economists call “hysteresis” — permanent damage to the economy. There’s a stigma to being out of work for too long, or starting a career too late, that is difficult to overcome, short of an economic boom. Patting yourself on the back when so much remains to be done defines down success so far that failure becomes impossible — and so will genuine success, in the future.