Teen Unemployment Near 20%

The American jobless rate dropped to 10.1% in July, a sharp improvement. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation Summary for the month, the number of unemployed people in the United States fell by 1.4 million to 16.3 million. However, one group did much worse than this. Unemployment among teenagers was 19.3% for the month. The contrast of joblessness between teens and any other group measured was huge.

The jobless rate among men was 9.4%. Among women, it was 10.5%. Among white Americans, it was 9.2%. Among Asians, it was 12%. Among Black Americans, it was 14.6%

Teenage unemployment always runs higher than the figure for the total population. However, it fell to 12.7% in July 2019, when the entire nations posted a joblessness rate among the lowest in five decades. Early summer is when the economy creates a large number of jobs for Americans ages 16 to 19.

The ripple effect of high unemployment among teens can last for years. According to the Center for American Progress: “Research shows that workers who are unemployed as young adults earn lower wages for many years following their period of unemployment due to forgone work experience and missed opportunities to develop skills.” That can translate into tens of billions of dollars in lost wages, the result of which may be damage to GDP later.

Michael Saltsman, a research fellow at the Employment Policies Institute, made a related point: “The risk is that if [teenagers] miss out on [the summer job experience], they become part of this lost generation of teens who never had a chance to get a foothold to take that first step on that career ladder.”

It is easy to shrug off poor unemployment among teens as the norm and that improved employment as they age means they will only suffer economically when they are young. That does not appear to be the case.