NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

More than 7 in 10 U.S. Teens Jobless This Summer

June 25, 2012

A silent victim of the last two recessions, teen unemployment has hit record levels since 2001. This trend is especially noticeable during the summer months, which are a traditional time of the year when teens head to work in droves, enabled by freedom from school and openings in seasonal employment. Recent labor statistics, however, suggest that this pattern has been largely disrupted, says the Sacramento Bee.

Older workers, immigrants and debt-laden college graduates are taking away lower-skill work as they struggle to find their own jobs in the weak economy. Add to this that the economic recovery is still fragile, and it is no surprise that a substantial majority of teens are jobless.

  • In 1978, the share of 16- to 19-year-olds with summer employment reached a peak of nearly 60 percent before waves of immigration brought in new low-skill workers.
  • Teen employment remained generally above 50 percent until 2001, dropping sharply to fresh lows after each of the past two recessions.
  • During the most recent recession, this figure fell dramatically: last summer, only 29.6 percent of that same age group was employed.
  • Overall, more than 44 percent of teens who want summer jobs don't get them or work fewer hours than they prefer.

Certainly, there is something to be said for losses in work motivation among teenagers. John A. Challenger, CEO of the national job-placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, argues that parents no longer push their children to seek jobs as they did in previous generations. However, surveys show that millions of teenagers languished in the job market during recent years.

  • Out of more than 3.5 million underutilized teens who remained in limbo in the job market last summer, 1.7 million were unemployed.
  • Another 700,000 worked fewer hours than desired, and 1.1 million wanted jobs but had given up looking.
  • These figures amount to a teen underutilization rate of 44 percent, up from roughly 25 percent in 2000.

Source: Hope Yen, "More than 7 in 10 U.S. Teens Jobless in Summer," Sacramento Bee, June 12, 2012.


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