Jobless Rate for Youths Is Increasing

Eddie Macias, 19, of Chicago has been job-hunting on and off for four years. He is among the youths who must now compete with older, laid-off workers and even college graduates who are unable to find work in their fields.
Eddie Macias, 19, of Chicago has been job-hunting on and off for four years. He is among the youths who must now compete with older, laid-off workers and even college graduates who are unable to find work in their fields. (By Kari Lydersen -- The Washington Post)
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By Kari Lydersen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 15, 2008

CHICAGO -- Since Eddie Macias graduated from high school in Chicago on June 17, his summer has stretched in front of him.

But he has no job.

Macias, 19, has been looking for work on and off for four years, starting after an aneurysm disabled his father. This spring he looked for jobs at malls and banks on foot and via the Internet but had no luck.

Macias has plenty of company. Young adults seeking low-skill service jobs for the summer must contend with older, laid-off workers, illegal immigrants and college graduates who cannot find work in their fields, as well as with cuts in federal summer jobs programs.

As a result, the national youth jobless rate for June was at its highest in six decades, with 37 percent of teenagers ages 16 to 19 employed, compared with 51 percent in June 2000, according to Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies, which analyzed Labor Department data.

"They say they don't want to hire teenagers -- they think we aren't as responsible," Macias said. He wants to work so he can help his mother, who cleans office buildings at night.

The center's earlier study of 10 major cities showed that the District had the highest youth joblessness rate, 86 percent, followed by Chicago, with 85 percent, and Detroit and New York at 82 percent.

The study did not use the usual definition of "unemployment," meaning people actively looking for work. Instead, it measured the proportion of youth who are working.

"Not all kids want to work, but when kids can't find work, they stop looking," said Andrew Sum, who wrote the study. "The kids who need work the most are getting it the least. There are a large number of kids unemployed and underemployed because there are simply not enough jobs for them."

The Labor Department's unemployment statistics are much lower than Sum's, because it measures only those actively seeking work. Still, the decrease in youth employment over the past decade is reflected. In June 1998, the agency reported 14.9 percent unemployment among those ages 16 to 19, compared with 18.1 percent unemployment among that group in June 2008.

In decades past, teenagers took advantage of general upturns in the labor market. In the 1990s, employers were scrounging for young workers, even importing many from overseas. But since 2000, even when the unemployment rate was low, teenagers did not reap the benefits, according to Sum's analysis of 60 years' worth of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"In the 1990s, teens benefited more than the average worker from the employment boom, with one out of every 10 new jobs," Sum said. "But teenagers did not get one net new job between 2003 and 2007. That's the first time that has happened in 40 years."


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