New Teen Employment Numbers Demonstrate Need for Youth-Focused “Jobs” Action

Teen Unemployment Remains High, with 25 Percent Looking and Unable to Find Work
  • Publication Date: March 2010

  • Topics: Teen Unemployment

WASHINGTON – Today, new employment data released from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the country’s unemployment rate has held steady at 9.7 percent.

But it’s teenagers – minority teenagers, especially – who continue to struggle in their job search. While falling slightly, teen unemployment remains high at 25 percent. Minority teen unemployment is higher still, with 42 percent of these teens looking for work and unable to find it.

This news comes the day after the House of Representatives voted in favor of “jobs” legislation that was previously passed by the Senate.

“Unfortunately, the legislation passed by the House and Senate doesn’t do enough to address the problems faced by entry-level employees,” said Michael Saltsman, research fellow at the Employment Policies Institute.

Unemployment in 2009 averaged 24.3 percent among teenagers; among minority teens, that figure was 39.5 percent. Teens across America are finding that part-time jobs at retailers, restaurants, and other businesses are tough to come by.

These employment difficulties were exacerbated by the 40 percent minimum wage hike that happened between July 2007 and July 2009. With higher employment costs, opportunities for teens simply aren’t there.

“The unintended consequence of our legislators’ good intentions was an increase in the cost to hire and train entry-level or less-skilled employees,” Saltsman continued. “Minimum wage increases end up hurting the very people they were meant to help.”

David Neumark, an economist with the University of California-Irvine, found that a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage was associated with a 6.6 percent drop in employment for black or Hispanic teens. Multiple studies and surveys of economists as far back as the 1940s echo these findings.

When faced with increased labor costs, employers can either slash the number of low-wage jobs they offer, or hire more skilled applicants. Either way, the door for employment is effectively shut for less-experienced teens searching for that all-important first job.

Saltsman concluded: “Congress needs to address the teen employment crisis, or risk consequences for this young generation that will be felt for many years to come.”