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Few groups were hit harder by the recession than young men, like Cody Preston and Justin Randol, 25-year-old high-school buddies who didn't go to college.

The unemployment rate for males between 25 and 34 years old with high-school diplomas is 14.4%—up from 6.1% before the downturn four years ago and far above today's 9% national rate. The picture is even more bleak for slightly younger men: 22.4% for high-school graduates 20 to 24 years old. That's up from 10.4% four years ago.

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