Posted by on June 6, 2017 10:55 pm
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Categories: Adolescence BLS Bureau of Labor Statistics Causes of unemployment in the United States Economy Education Labor Labour relations Minimum wage Social justice unemployment Unemployment in the United States

Compared with their peers in the European periphery, American teenagers looking for a part-time job this summer are in an enviable position: With the unemployment rate at a post-crisis low and demand for seasonal workers set to rise by more than 10 percentage points compared with last year, they shouldn’t have much trouble finding work, Bloomberg reported.

However, despite these encouraging circumstances, the teenage workforce participation rates are already at their lowest levels in more than a decade – and they’re expected to keep falling. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the workforce participation rate among teens to break below 27 percent in 2024, or 30 points lower than the peak seasonally adjusted rate in 1989.

Why? Because teens these days are facing stiff competition from Americans over the age of 65 – i.e. their parents and grandparents.

As Bloomberg reports: American teens are “being crowded out of the workforce by older Americans, now working past 65 at the highest rates in more than 50 years.”

Of course, senior citizen aren’t the only demographic group vying for the service-industry jobs once coveted as a rite of passage among American teens. Immigrants have also taken some of those jobs, as Bloomberg reports.

“Why aren’t teens working? Lots of theories have been offered: They’re being crowded out of the workforce by older Americans, now working past 65 at the highest rates in more than 50 years. Immigrants are competing with teens for jobs; a 2012 study found that less educated immigrants affected employment for U.S. native-born teenagers far more than for native-born adults.”

Whether you’re looking at summer jobs or at teen employment year-round, the work trends for teenagers show a clear pattern over the last three decades. When recessions hit, in the early 1990s, early 2000s, and from 2007 to 2009, teen labor participation rates plunge. As the economy recovers, though, teen labor doesn’t bounce back.

Today’s college-bound teens are finding that the ROI for focusing on their studies in the hopes of obtaining outside scholarships or merit-based aid packages is more attractive than a minimum-wage paycheck, according to a study by the BLS.

“Parents are pushing kids to volunteer and sign up for extracurricular activities instead of working, to impress college admission counselors. College-bound teens aren’t looking for work because the money doesn’t go as far as it used to. ‘Teen earnings are low and pay little toward the costs of college,’ the BLS noted this year. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Elite private universities charge tuition of more than $50,000.”

Whereas decades ago, summer school was for remedial-track students who failed courses offered during the academic year, teens from affluent families are enrolling in enrichment courses and taking classes for college credit as high school curriculum grows increasingly more intense.

In 1982, fewer than one in 10 high school graduates had completed at least four years of English classes, three years of math, science, and social science, and two years of a foreign language. By 2009, the most recent data in the U.S. Digest of Education Statistics, the share of grads taking those classes was almost 62%.

All this studying has obvious benefits, but a single-minded focus on education has disadvantages, too; a summer job helps provide teens with real work experience that they can’t get at school or home. Working teens learn how to interact with co-workers, operate as part of a team and – most importantly – deal with bosses.

Last year, 43 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds were either working or looking for a job. That’s 10 points lower than in July 2006. In 1988 and 1989, the July labor force participation rate for teenagers nearly hit 70 percent.

In July 2016, more than two-fifths of American students aged 16-19 were enrolled in a summer course. That’s more than four times the enrollment totals from July 1965, Bloomberg reported.

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