The unemployment rate has dropped to 5% from 10% since Oct. 2009. That sounds good. Unfortunately, the underlying numbers aren't quite as good as the overall unemployment rate appears.

Yes, the U.S. economy continues to add jobs in 200,000 chunks each month, but not everyone is getting in on the action. Millennials, those in the 18-29 age group, continue to suffer from unemployment and underemployment at depressing rates. U.S. Census data show that 40% of U.S. millennials are unemployment. What's more, the number of employed young people making less than $25,000 a year has spiked to the highest level in more than a quarter century.

There's more. The Labor Department sees a decline in workforce participation among prime working-age adults, those between ages 25 and 54. From 1950 through mid-2000, the employment participation rate among this group had trended higher, hitting a high of 84.5%. Since then, it's drifted lower, to below 81%. Unfortunately, most of the decline is concentrated in the younger end of the age range.

We've been saying for the past year that the lack of young first-time buyers is the one variable that could set housing market back. We're not bearish on housing or lending by any stretch, but without an influx of first-time buyers, it will be tough for housing and mortgage lending to maintain the trajectory established in recent years.

Information provided by Jessica Regan.

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