Teenage Unemployment Spikes to 32%

Many teenagers count on summer jobs to supplement income for the balance of the year. For a huge number, that opportunity is lost this year. Based on the Employment Situation Summary for April, released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, teenage unemployment was 31.9% in April. That is more than double the national average of 14.7%.

The teenage unemployment rate has always been higher than for other groups. As the national rate for all Americans ran about 3.6% for the months from December through March, the teenage unemployment rate averaged 12.2%.

Across all measured groups, last month:

In April, unemployment rates rose sharply among all major worker groups. The rate was 13.0 percent for adult men, 15.5 percent for adult women, 31.9 percent for teenagers, 14.2 percent for Whites, 16.7 percent for Blacks, 14.5 percent for Asians, and 18.9 percent for Hispanics. The rates for all of these groups, with the exception of Blacks, represent record highs for their respective series.

The effects of unemployment among young people can be profound. A Brookings report titled “Employment and disconnection among teens and young adults: The role of place, race, and education” had this to say about the importance of their work experiences:

School is likely to be teens’ primary activity until high school graduation, but early work experiences (part-time and in the summer) can provide valuable opportunities for teens to learn new skills, gain experience, expand their networks, and develop positive relationships with adults. Young adults are typically in a different phase and engage in a broader mix of activities. Some continue in school full time, some combine work and school, and others work full time, or would like to do so.

Millions of young people will be deprived of the chance to pick up skills and experience. That in turn, will ripple through the jobs economy for years, as people who enter their twenties lack the background that could create a path to better, higher-paying jobs. The current deep recession (or depression, as it may turn out) will change the composition of the American workforce for decades.