Millennials may be America's next great generation.

The 18- to 29-year-olds are better educated and technologically savvier than previous generations. Politically, they are active and progressive, and sought by marketers because of their diversity and buying power -- projected at $200 billion annually.

About 40 percent identify themselves as African-American, Latino, Asian or racially mixed.

Yet millennials' unemployment threatens their future. The national unemployment rate is 7.2 percent, but the rate among this group is nearly 12 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That rate does not include 1.7 million unemployed millennials not counted because they stopped looking for work. In New York City, the jobless rate is 32.6 percent for 16- to 19-year-olds, 14.2 percent for 20- to 24-year-olds and 9.7 percent for 25- to 35-year-olds, according to BLS.

This issue is not confined to the United States. According to the International Labor Organization, a group that works on social and economic issues, about 73 million millennials are unemployed worldwide. Greece leads with 65 percent of young adults out of work, followed by Spain (55 percent) and Italy (35 percent). In those countries, the European economic crisis is worsened by a lack of growth.

The U.S. recession devastated the job market, which has since improved. But millennials are caught in an unfortunate storm: The applicant pool has become larger as employers cut jobs and fill entry-level posts with older, more experienced candidates.

A Census Bureau report released in March found that household debt for people 55 and older increased faster than for any other age group. Beyond their parents, millennials also are consumed by debt because of the rising cost of education. For instance, the amount of student loan debt has tripled to nearly $1 trillion since 2004, according to the New York Federal Reserve.

Sadly, joblessness among millennials does not seem a priority in Washington. Investing in this generation -- by supporting it, mentoring it and encouraging job opportunities -- is not only wise, but necessary. Our future depends on millennials coming into their own.

Giovanna Acosta works for the New York City Health and Hospitals Corp. She blogs about career-related topics at grlatwrk.blogspot.com.