Minimum wage, rough economy hurting teen employment

Youth appear to be the ones to be hurting the most in today’s difficult labor market. This has become even more apparent after the Brookings Institute published a new study Sunday entitled “The Plummeting Labor Market Fortunes of Teens and Young Adults” that found teen employment is at its lowest rate since after World War II.

According to the think-tank, the employment rate for youth aged 16 to 19 dropped to its lowest level in several decades to 26 percent. In several cities across the country, less than one in six teenagers has jobs. Even in Provo, Utah, the city that was ranked first in teen employment only has a 49 percent rate.

Nearly two million teens in the 100 largest cities are underutilized. What this means is that youth are searching for a job, they would like to have one but aren’t looking or they already have a part-time job but they would prefer to have full-time employment.

“Employment prospects for teens and young adults in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas plummeted between 2000 and 2011,” the non-profit organization said in a statement. “On a number of measures—employment rates, labor force underutilization, unemployment, and year-round joblessness—teens and young adults fared poorly, and sometimes disastrously. This report provides a number of strategies to reduce youth joblessness and labor force underutilization.”

The institute submitted a number of recommendations to get students and young adults in the workforce, including :

–          Combine work-based learning opportunities in secondary and post-secondary schools and expand apprenticeships

–          Offer more directed assistance to assist youth find jobs

–          Improve financial incentives for employment that target younger workers without children (I.E. Earned Income Tax Credit)

–          Develop opportunities for high school dropouts to attain a diploma or GED

Of course, other experts say the problem of joblessness can be applied even to college graduates.

“The national unemployment rate for young adults ages 20-29 with bachelor’s degrees is alarmingly high—nearly 13 percent,” wrote Bill Path, president of Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology, in The Huffington Post. “Unless changes are made, the unemployment dilemma for young college graduates will very likely continue to worsen.”

One solution that is not being suggested is to abolish the minimum wage, at least for youth. With a hike in the minimum wage on the horizon, why would employers pay inexperienced and unskilled youths $10.10 per hour to perform a job that requires them to be trained? Instead, businesses can simply hire those with more experience and education to complete the tasks at hand without any training.

Like this article? Get ECN delivered to your inbox daily. Subscribe here.

Leave a Comment