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Young Oregonians find themselves stuck between economic rock and a hard place

by: SLOAN CHAMBERS/OPB - Many young Oregonians find themselves at one of the branches of the Oregon Employment Department.An analysis from a state of Oregon economist finds young workers are in a bind. There are downsides to going to school and to hitting the job market.

A high unemployment rate for young people has driven many of them into the college ranks.

Josh Lehner with Oregon's Office of Economic Analysis says getting a degree can boost long-term earning potential.

But Lehner says surveys he's seen from employers show they're reluctant to hire young college-educated people with little work experience.

However, even if young people prioritize getting a job, Lehner says it's hard for them to out-compete older workers. Employers say on surveys that younger candidates don't seem as ready for the work place.

"The lack of work experience for younger workers today," says Lehner. "They have less on their resume in terms of professional experience, so they are missing some of these soft skills that you learn in a professional environment."

Lehner says it doesn't help younger workers that in the tight economy, entry-level jobs are often going to older candidates.