Great Recession Took a Toll on Youth Employment

A first job is a milestone that too many young people today are not reaching, and it could reduce their earnings throughout their careers, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The Great Recession is a major culprit, as more youth are competing with out-of-work adults for a limited number of jobs. Ann Belser at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette explains:

In 2011, the teenage employment rate — the percentage of 16- through 19-year-olds who have jobs — fell to 26 percent in the U.S., which is a 42 percent decline from 2000.

In Pennsylvania, the teen employment rate in 2011 was 39 percent, down from 46 percent in 2000. That puts the state tied for seventh nationally.

One good development, the Casey Foundation report finds: the lack of job opportunities has kept more young people in the classroom:

One silver lining is that as prospects for work have diminished, more youth are staying in high school and enrolling in college. School enrollment rates for teens ages 16 to 19 rose from 79 percent in 2000 to 85 percent in 2011. For young adults ages 20 to 24, rates rose from 31 percent to 38 percent. Yet while these rates have improved overall, African-American, Latino and Native-American young adults are still substantially less likely to graduate than their white and Asian peers.

The report recommends policies that promote apprenticeship and job readiness programs to prepare more young people for jobs of the 21st Century. In Pennsylvania, Industry Partnerships and Youth Build programs are good examples of public-private partnerships aimed at linking young people in search of jobs to employment.

The Economic Policy Institute in a 2009 report highlighted the long-lasting damage a recession can have on the economic fortune of those hit hardest by it, especially young people. Unemployment and income losses from recessions can threaten an individual's educational achievements, economic opportunities for families and new business start ups, the report states. If young people are casualties of the Great Recession, future generations will pay a price:

There is also substantial evidence that economic outcomes are passed across generations. As such, economic hardships for parents will mean more economic hurdles for their children. While it is often said that deficits can cause transfers of wealth from future generations of taxpayers to the present, this cost must also be compared with the economic consequences of recessions that are also passed to future generations....

A recession, therefore, should not be thought of as a one-time event that stresses individuals and families for a couple of years. Rather, economic downturns will impact the future prospects of all family members, including children, and will have consequences for years to come.

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