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Young Workers in Free Fall: 1/3 Under 35 Live with Parents

So much for the economic independence that's supposed to come with young adulthood.

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But the future now looks particularly bleak, especially if the "jobless recovery" continues at its relatively slow pace, and the level playing field for union organizing remains blocked by opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act.

At the media conference on Tuesday, one 31-year-old worker, Nate Scherer, explained his all-too-common plight:

After getting married, my wife and I decided to move in with my parents to pay off our bills. We could afford to live on our own but we'd never be able to get out of debt. We have school loans to pay off, too. We'd like to have children, but we just can't manage the expense of it right now...so we're putting it off till we're in a better place. My [work] position is on the edge, and I feel like if my company were to cut back, my position would be one of the first to go.

Nate at least has a job, but he represents an economic tsunami for young workers that offers a profound challenge to the country -- and our economic future. As Bob Herbert, looking at both long-term joblessness and the problems facing young workers, summed up recently in his column "A Scary Reality":

For those concerned with the economic viability of the American family going forward, the plight of young workers, especially young men, is particularly frightening. The percentage of young American men who are actually working is the lowest it has been in the 61 years of record-keeping, according to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston.

Only 65 of every 100 men aged 20 through 24 years old were working on any given day in the first six months of this year. In the age group 25 through 34 years old, traditionally a prime age range for getting married and starting a family, just 81 of 100 men were employed.

For male teenagers, the numbers were disastrous: only 28 of every 100 males were employed in the 16- through 19-year-old age group...

This should be the biggest story in the United States. When joblessness reaches these kinds of extremes, it doesn't just damage individual families; it corrodes entire communities, fosters a sense of hopelessness and leads to disorder.

The union movement's leaders are hoping that by engaging young workers and increasing its power in more workplaces, they can start turning around this crisis and making up for "The Lost Decade."

Art Levine also co-hosts "The D'Antoni and Levine Show" on BlogTalk Radio, which last week hosted Roger Hickey of the Campaign for America's Future talking about the politics of including a public option in health reform.