Spotlight Exclusives

Economic Recession Hurting Teen Workers in the Present and in the Future

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As policymakers and the American publiccontinue searching for solutions to persistently high unemployment, onedemographic that shouldn۪t be ignored is low-income youth workers. In a tighteconomy, these younger adults are competing with and losing jobs to workerswith more experience, who have lost their own positions and have been forced totake lower-skilled jobs to make ends meet.

According to a May 16 article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, only onein four teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 are currently employed.According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate of this agegroup is now at 23.5 percent, the highest level since records started beingkept in 1948.  By comparison the nationalunemployment rate is 9.9 percent.

Low-skilled jobs are often the onlyoption available for low-income young people to support themselves and theirfamilies, and to gain work skills and experience.  Given that low-income people in general arealready more likely to beunemployed,the employment difficulties facing young adults could have particularly seriousconsequences.

The article notes that since therecession hit in 2007, more than one million teens have left the work force andare neither looking for work nor collecting unemployment. In addition to thehigh unemployment rate now for this age group, losing out in the current jobmarket has the implications for their future employment.  Job loss now means lack of skills and poorfuture employment prospects. As researcher Andy Sum has noted, “lack of broad-based work exposure is harming bothimmediate and longer term job prospects and earnings. Employers areincreasingly critical of their (young people۪s) lack of employability skillsand their poor work behavior, but they can only gain such skills through workitself.”

Both houses of Congress are alreadylooking at legislation that would give up to $1 billion in funding to states tocreate an estimated 300,000 summer jobs for teens.

As the debate on policy solutions forunemployment goes forward, leaders need to consider these young workers, whoare struggling to succeed in job markets of the present and future.

Posted by Mike


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