Part of the reason behind that disparity, she said, is that young workers have less seniority, meaning they're typically more likely to lose their jobs when their companies begin layoffs.
Younger workers also tend to be more mobile and less stable, she said. Because they're often still trying to decide where they'd like to live and work, they often have short spells of unemployment. Although they may not last more than a few months, those brief periods are reflected in national job numbers, she said.
As high as they are, Shierholz said, the unemployment numbers for recent graduates may actually paint a rosier picture than the one recent graduates encounter in the real world. National unemployment numbers don't take into account recent graduates who have jobs that don't require a degree, like waiting tables.
Underemployment of young adults is generally fairly high — even in good times, there are always baristas with history degrees, Shierholz said. But since the onset of the depression, even those with more marketable degrees are having trouble finding jobs, she said.
Although the job outlook remains bleak for recent graduates, the numbers are steadily improving, she said. That improvement is slow, she said, so graduates in 2013 and 2014 can look forward to a difficult job search, as well. But the job market the Class of 2012 is entering is better than the one the Class of 2010 encountered.
“That's a really low bar,” she said. “It's better than then, which is about all you can say.”