Teen Unemployment Highest Since 1948

Posted on October 3, 2009

If you haven't seen a teenager waiting tables in a local restaurant or checking you out at a retail store lately, there is a good reason. The teen unemployment rate has now hit 25.9% in September. That is the highest rate recorded since the Labor Department started keeping records in 1948. The House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing to discuss the matter.
"Indeed, because of the horrible economy, younger workers are now competing with more experienced workers for positions traditionally [in] the domain of the young and less experienced," Rep. George Miller, a California Democrat and the committee chairman, said according to prepared remarks. "Until the economy as a whole turns around, younger workers will continue to be hit the hardest."

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Even in good times teens tend to experience higher levels of joblessness: The unemployment rate for the age group was at 16.9% in December 2007 when the recession began. Recessions tend to amplify their disadvantages, such as their lack of work experience. Set against a backdrop of retired workers who were forced to rejoin the workforce to pay bills, parents who've been laid off and are trying to care for children, and adults who have seen their retirement funds evaporate, young people often find it hard to get any sympathy. Particularly when it seems like the only thing they're losing is pocket money.

And yet studies have shown that being shut out of the labor market early in one's career can lead to persistent, negative effects on a person's ability to find a job and earn competitive wages for up to a decade or more.
The committee is considering designating more money to the Workforce Investment Act, which gives funds to provide training and employment to teens in low income areas. But unless the overall job market improves, teen unemployment will remain high.