Teen unemployment is triple the national average, but Andrew Sum, Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, says the number is actually much worse.

Unemployment figures only count people who are “actively looking for work,” but many teens and young adults, explains Sum, drop out of the labor market after repeated rejection and then aren’t counted. Sum says employment, is actually a better metric for gauging unemployment. What percentage of the population is actually working? It turns out that for 16-24 year-olds, that rate is the lowest it’s been since the end of World War II.

You may be thinking, “Yeah, so what? Kids don’t need jobs as much as adults anyway,” but Sum, who has spent his career studying youth employment, says the problem is real, unprecedented, and it affects the entire nation.

Youth Radio interviewed Sum about the importance of putting youth to work, and why the United States is missing the mark.