Employment Is Scarce for American Teens
by Patricia Cazares, age 13
It is getting more difficult for teens to find part-time or summer employment. During recent years, the percentage of unemployment over the summer has increased among teenagers between the age of 16 and 19. The average summer unemployment rate rose from 13 percent in 2000 to 15.8 percent in 2007. Many more teens have reported not being able to secure the type of employment that would help them save for college.
Experts say that teenagers are losing job opportunities to more experienced laid-off workers who are now looking for lower-level jobs because more traditional higher-paying jobs are scarce.
Michael Saltsman, a researcher at Employment Policies Institute, cited a study by Miami and Trinity Universities showing that the minimum hourly wage increase from $5.15 in 2007 to $7.25 in 2009, resulted in a reduction in teenage employment nationwide. By August of 2011 the overall unemployment rate for teens had risen to 5.4 percent, according to the Labor Department. The unemployment rate for black teens was even worse, at 46 percent.
While the law says employers can pay teens $3 less for 90 days during training, Saltsman believes they should be able to pay this lower wage all the time, so that more teens can be hired. Saltsman said that the substitution of technology for many jobs traditionally held by teens is another factor contributing to the rapid rise in teenage unemployment.
In 2000, more than half of teenagers worked in the summer. In comparison, 26.9 percent of teens worked in the summer of 2011. In a recent report the Bureau of Labor Statistics cited many reasons for these trends, including the fact that more teens are attending summer school and more high school graduates are attending college.
Traditionally, summer jobs have been important for teaching teens skills and effective communication in the workplace. Many experts say recent teen employment trends are troubling. In an interview with USA Today, Dean Baker, co-director of the Center of Economic and Policy Research, suggested that the federal government bring job programs back for low-income teens as part of an economic stimulus.
[Sources: USA Today; The Wall Street Journal]