July 23, 2008 in Business



The job market for teenagers is the worst it has been in decades.

A weaker summer employment market, stemming from an anemic economy and higher age requirements for many jobs, has resulted in an idle summer for many teens.

Almost one in four 16- and 17-year-olds can’t find work, and the Northeastern University Center for Labor Market Studies found this summer’s teen employment rate could reach a postwar low.

That decline could have implications far into the future. “Less work experience today leads to less work experience tomorrow and lower earnings down the road,” a Northeastern University Center for Labor Market Studies study said.

Two legislative proposals that would have provided $1 billion for summer youth jobs failed in Congress this year, and some are urging lawmakers to include similar measures in any second economic stimulus package.

The gap between the national unemployment rate and the unemployment rate for teenagers was the widest it has been in 25 years in May. It widened almost three percentage points to 13.2 in May from April. In June, the gap between the two rates narrowed slightly but was still above the historic norm of 9 percentage points.

Howard Rosen, an economist with the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said that though teenage labor data are volatile, the figures could indicate a problem in the teenage job market.

He said higher minimum wage requirements may be leading employers to favor older workers.

“We’ve seen in the past that the teenage unemployment rate has followed the national rate, and now we have a divergence,” Rosen said. “That’s big.”

Renee Ward, founder of the teen job search Web site Teens4hire.org, said employers have favored older teens since 2001.

The overall teenager unemployment rate declined to 18.1 percent in June from 18.7 percent in May. The lackluster economy is helping to shrink the job market, including positions at retailers that hire many teenagers.

The retail industry has lost 194,000 jobs since March 2007.

Wall Street Journal

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email