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With earnings of less than $10 an hour, even forking over the $40 it takes to go to a networking event to stay in touch with other designers in hopes of landing a better job is painful. “I could use that money for food,” he said.

Sympathy has been hard to come by, even from parents at times, but a poll by Pew Research found that Americans are increasingly aware that the Millennial generation has borne the brunt of the Great Recession and that young people are grappling with a more hostile economy than their parents’ generation.

While every age group was hit with higher unemployment rates and reduced incomes as a result of the 2007-09 recession, young adults were hit the hardest. The poll found that half of Millennials have taken jobs that they didn’t want just to pay the bills. One-fourth have taken unpaid jobs to gain work experience, and more than one-third have gone back to school because of the poor economy.

Parents step in

Besides postponing marriage and families, about one in four Millennials say they have moved back with their parents after trying to live on their own. That has the effect of spreading the economic pain, as the return of a grown child forces many parents to postpone their own retirement plans.

Still, many parents are well aware that their children are under financial pressures that they have never had to face and are glad to help.

Yvonne Schlueter of Centennial, Colo., said her son Brett lived at home for two years while looking for a job in his field. The competition for entry-level jobs was fierce.

“People who are getting laid off, with five or six years’ experience, are willing to take the entry-level jobs,” she said.

Some analysts worry that the whole generation could be scarred by their bad experiences in the job market and lead less-productive lives as a result.

Tom Porcelli, chief U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets, said people who study the job market, including Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, are concerned particularly that discouraged young people are dropping out of the market in record numbers.

“That the younger generation has witnessed a sharp decline in labor force participation poses a bigger problem down the road, as skills diminish or are never developed” once young people stop working in their chosen fields, he said.

The loss is deeply personal for those who can’t find jobs, but for the greater society, it will lower the productiveness of the future economy, he said.

Worldwide problem

The jump in youth unemployment in the U.S. was part of a worldwide trend spawned by the Great Recession, according to a study last fall by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Youth unemployment averages about 17 percent in industrialized countries, but is as high as 40 percent to 50 percent in Spain, Greece and other hardest-hit countries.

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