This summer American teenagers
should find it a little easier to get a job—if they want one.
The U.S. unemployment
rate fell to 4.3 percent in May, the lowest in 16 years,
so teens started looking for summer jobs in the best labor market
since the tech boom of the early 2000s. The May unemployment rate for
16- to 19-year-olds was 14.3 percent, but teens usually find it harder to
find jobs than their more experienced elders. Back in 2009, the teenage jobless
rate hit 27 percent.
A CareerBuilder survey of 2,587
employers released last month found that 41 percent were planning to
hire seasonal workers for the summer, up from 29 percent last year.
But the unemployment rate
measures joblessness only among people who are actively looking for work. And
many American teens aren't.
For Baby Boomers and Generation
X, the summer job was a rite of passage. Today's teenagers have other
priorities. Teens are likeliest to be working in July, according to data from
the Bureau of Labor Statistics that's not seasonally adjusted. In July of
last year, 43 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds were either working or
looking for a job. That's 10 points lower than in July 2006. In 1988
and 1989, the July labor force participation rate for teenagers nearly hit 70
Whether you're looking at summer
jobs or at teen employment year-round, the work trends for
teenagers show a clear pattern over the last three decades. When
recessions hit, in the early 1990s, early 2000s, and from 2007 to
2009, teen labor participation rates plunge. As the economy recovers,
though, teen labor doesn't bounce back. The BLS expects the teen
labor force participation rate to drop below 27 percent in 2024, or 30
points lower than the peak seasonally adjusted rate in 1989.
Why aren't teens working? Lots of
theories have been offered: They're being crowded out of the workforce by older
Americans, now working past 65 at the highest rates in more than
50 years. Immigrants are competing with teens for jobs; a 2012
study found that less educated immigrants
affected employment for U.S. native-born teenagers far more than for
native-born adults. Parents are pushing kids to volunteer and sign up
for extracurricular activities instead of working, to impress college
admission counselors. College-bound teens aren't looking for work because the
money doesn't go as far as it used to. "Teen earnings are low and pay
little toward the costs of college," the BLS noted this year. The federal
minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Elite private universities charge tuition of
more than $50,000.
Or maybe, as cranky old
people have asserted for generations, teenagers are just getting lazy.
BLS analysis offers another theory, backed up by solid data. It
appears that millions of teenagers aren't working because they're studying
Over the last few decades,
education has taken up more and more of teenagers' time, as
school districts lengthen both the school day and the academic
year. During the school year, academic loads have gotten
heavier. Education is also eating up teenagers' summers. Teens aren't
going to summer school just because they failed a class and need to
catch up. They're also enrolling in enrichment courses and taking courses
for college credit.
In July of last year, more
than two in five 16- to 19-year-olds were enrolled in school. That's four
times times as many as were enrolled in 1985, BLS data show.
Students have more to learn in
their four years of high school. In 1982, fewer than one in 10 high school
graduates had completed at least four years of English classes, three
years of math, science, and social science, and two years of a foreign
language. By 2009, the most recent data in the U.S. Digest of
Education Statistics, the share of grads taking those classes was almost
Digest of Education Statistics,
High school students aren't just
taking more classes. They're taking tougher ones. What's happened in math
reflects trends in other areas. Calculus is up threefold since the
early 1980s, while precalculus is up more than fivefold, and statistics
and probability courses are up tenfold. Almost a million
students graduated in 2009 having taken an advanced placement (AP) class, up 39 percent
from four years earlier.
All this studying has obvious
benefits, but a single-minded focus on education has disadvantages, too. A
summer job can help teenagers grow up as it expands their
experience beyond school and home. Working teens learn how to manage
money, deal with bosses, and get along with co-workers of all ages.
A summer job can even save
lives. In a study released last month by the National Bureau of
Economic Research, researchers analyzed the effects of two Chicago programs
providing students with part-time jobs along with mentors for the summer.
The programs had little apparent effect on the teens' later employment or
education—a big concern in itself—but arrests for violent crime
plunged, by 42 percent for one program and 33 percent for the other,
an effect felt for at least a year after the programs ended. If teens got
nothing else out of the jobs programs, the researchers suggested, they
were at least "learning to better avoid or manage conflict."
here for the original article from Bloomberg.