Teen job market continues to shrink


For seven months, Kayla Fries, 17, was grateful to have a job working as a cashier at the local Snyders Drug Store, but after Walgreens bought the chain, she found herself one of many teens looking for a job.

According to Joe McLaughlin, the senior research associate at the Center of Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston, the unemployment rate of teens is at an all time high due to the recession.

The recession has eliminated more than 8 million jobs nationally, which means more out-of-work adults are willing to take jobs traditionally filled by teens.

ThreeSixty Journalism is nonprofit youth journalism program based at the University of St Thomas in St. Paul. It is committed to bringing diverse voices into journalism and related professions and to using intense, personal instruction in the craft and principles of journalism to strengthen the civic literacy, writing skills and college-readiness of Minnesota teens.

During 2000, 45 out of a 100 teens were employed. By 2009, only 26 out of 100 teens were employed, according to McLaughlin.

With numbers like that, a ton of teens will be missing out on the needed traits learned from having a job.

“I learned to be more responsible and that you’re more independent when you have a job. Also, when you have a job, you get better grades because it forces you to get your homework done,” Kayla said.

Loss of teen jobs not only cheats them out of making money now, but can lead to a vicious cycle of unemployment. You need experience to get a job, and a job to get experience. “Teens, especially those not going to 4-year colleges, will have a harder time finding a job after high school if they have no prior work experience. Those with no work experience will also face lower wages when they do find work compared to teens who have been working for some time,” Mclaughlin said.

McLaughlin also said teen unemployment could have a long-term effect on the whole economy. “The country loses … money that teens spend from their paychecks.”

Not only are teens now being forced to compete with adults for jobs, there are fewer job opportunities since the minimum wage increased, McLaughlin said.

When wages rise, employers hire fewer workers because they now cost more. The higher wage makes certain jobs more appealing and attracts more competition than before.

The lack of jobs is forcing some teens to turn to under-the table-work and a life of crime, McLaughlin said. “Some research has indicated the urban youth turn to the underground, illegal economy to make money, (like) selling drugs,” he said. “This is why the problem of teen unemployment should be considered a major public policy problem.”

Teens from low-income households often need to work to help support their family, but also have the hardest time getting a job, McLaughlin said.

Despite all of these statistics, Kayla is continuing her job search, not only to make some extra money to put into her savings for college, but because she misses the feelings of accomplishment that she felt while having a job.

“I guess having to do something on your own (is what motivated me to get a job); it helps you get prepared for the real world once you’re finished,” she said. “It’s also exciting to see adults look at you like you’re trustworthy and they can count on you.”