The Collapse of the National Teen Job Market and the Case for an Immediate Youth Jobs Creation Program

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Center for Labor Market Studies, Northeastern University

Employment rates for 16- to 19-year-olds have been declining or stagnant since 1989, and the teen employment rate for 2007 was only 34.8 percent – the lowest since the end of World War II. Only 19 percent of black teens from families earning less than $20,000 annually worked in 2007, compared with nearly half of white teens in families earning more than $60,000.

Teens have faced severe competition for jobs in recent years from senior citizens, single mothers with limited schooling, immigrants and college students who can’t find work in their field of study. Some researchers theorize that fewer teens today want to work, and that the decline reflects an increase in school attendance and college enrollment.

However, the study authors calculate that the number of teens who report unemployment, underemployment or wanting a job (but not looking) averaged 2.4 million during an average month in 2007 – 14 percent of the teen population. The study recommends that state and local Workforce Investment Act Boards immediately “call upon the U.S. Department of Labor to develop comprehensive strategies for placing more teens in jobs during both the summer and school year.” Free, 9 pages. (202) 659-1064,