Summertime employment has traditionally been seen as a rite of passage, a builder of character and a source of funding for teenage frolic, but even a part-time job serving burgers or minding the retail racks isn’t easy to come by these days. In 2000, the average summer employment rate was nearly 52 percent, dropping to 30 percent last year. In 2012, just a quarter of teens reported having a paying job.*
The report, The Dismal State of the Nation’s Teen Summer Job Market, 2008-2012, and the Outlook for the Summer of 2013, from the Center for Labor and Market studies at Northeastern University details the decline in teenage employment rates and the weakness of the current job market and what that means for young adults. A key take-away from the report is that household income was a better predictor of youth employment than race. Low income youth were least likely to be working. As family income rose, so did teen employment rates, with 21 percent of youth from households earning under $20,000 reporting summer employment compared to 38 percent from households earning between $100,000 and $150,000 a year.
The sad state of teen summer employment isn’t surprising considering the decline of the overall youth employment rate. A policy report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation on the growing number of teens and young adults both unemployed and not in school – referred to as disconnected youth in the brief – found that such youth were most likely to be from low income families. Specifically,
- 21 percent of low income (under $20,000/household) 16-to-19 year old youth were disconnected compared to 8 percent of their counterparts in families with an income over $100,000; and
- among 20-to 24-year-olds from low income families, 30 percent were not in school or employed,compared to 10 percent of those from families earning $100,000 or more.
The Pennsylvania employment rate for young adults (20 to 24 years old) is approximately 62 percent, for teens 16 to 19, 39 percent.
The authors of the report Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity, challenge policy makers to find cooperative cross-system approaches to reconnecting and reengaging youth with education and employment opportunities. An approach that is flexible enough to use the strengths of the community where it operates but based in proven outreach and engagement strategies that go beyond mere job-matching might have a chance, if the funding survives.
If you are interested in learning more about models of youth employment initiatives check out Best Practices for Youth Employment Programs:A Synthesis of Current Research from What Works, Wisconsin.
*Source: Andrew Sum, Ishwar Khatiwada, Walter McHugh, and Sheila Palma, The Dismal State of the Nation’s Teen Summer Job Market, 2008-2012, and the Outlook for the Summer of 2013, Center for Labor Market Studies, Northeastern University, May 2013.