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Fewer young adults hold jobs than ever before

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The share of young adults with jobs has hit its lowest level since the government started keeping records just after World War II.

By the end of 2011, only 54.3% of those between the ages of 18 and 24 were employed, according to a Pew Research Center report released Thursday. And the gap in employment between the young and all working-age adults is roughly 15 percentage points — the widest on record.

The Great Recession hurt the young more than most other age groups. Their employment decline has been steeper and their median weekly earnings fell by 6%, while holding steady for others, Pew found.

Only part of this can be explained by the growth in college attendance. While a greater share of 18- to 24-year-olds are in school than ever before, the employment rate has fallen regardless of enrollment.

For those in college, only 40.7% had jobs last year, down from 47.6% in 2007. And the employment rate for young adults not in school dropped to 65%, from 73.2% in 2007.

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