According to Reuters, low-income and minority youths are being hit hard by the recession. These young people need part-time jobs to gain the experience to get future jobs as well as simply to survive.
Only “26 percent of American teenagers aged 16 to 19 had jobs in late 2009″ and there is a “record one out of five black men aged 20 to 24 neither working or in school.”
The Reuters article goes on to say that joblessness was particularly high “among high school dropouts aged 16 to 24 who were neither in school nor holding a job.” And that Americans who weren’t in school and aren’t working jumped to 28 percent.
These jobless rates do not count teens that have simply stopped looking for jobs.
Overall teenagers are having a harder time finding work for many reasons. They are less experienced and less educated. With more people overall looking for jobs many people are willing to work for less money, they are taking the jobs that teenagers would otherwise hold. Owners are more likely to hire someone with more experience, more maturity and more time available to work.
The effects of joblessness go beyond not having any money. Young people aren’t gaining experience working and developing interpersonal skills, skills that can help them throughout their life times.
Not having prior work experience when people are young can reduce their future wages significantly. A 2001 Employment Policies Institute study, found that “a six-month unemployment spell can reduce future wages by 2.3 percent.” Teens with prolonged periods of unemployment are also more likely to be out of work as adults.
But, why are low-income and minority youths having a harder time than white or more affluent teenagers when it comes to finding jobs?
Many small stores who might have employed young people from their own neighborhoods are having a harder time keeping their doors open. The more places that close shop or go bankrupt the fewer jobs. Those places that do manage to hold on make do with fewer employees; thus, offering fewer chances for employment. In short, inner-cities are seeing less job growth while, over the past few decades, the suburbs have seen more.
In addition, many minority teens lack the reading, speaking, and social skills needed to handle working in a customer service or retail business, two industries that typically hire younger employees. They often receive a poorer education, which translates into a limited amount of job worthy skills.
There is also less networking. In higher-income families there is a greater chance that another family member or friend will own a business and hire a young person they already know.
Sadly, this is nothing new. A report on the Ford Foundation says, “According to a survey by the U.S. Labor Department in 1979, joblessness among 16-to 21-year-old black youth was 38.8 per cent, compared to 19.3 per cent for youth as a whole. During the past three decades the black youth unemployment rate has risen sharply relative to other workers.
Surveys have shown that black and Hispanic youth are consigned to lower-wage, lower-skilled jobs than whites. They must travel longer distances to reach their jobs and derive less satisfaction from them. They tend to be laid off much more frequently than their white counterparts.”
A 1985, Time magazine article, “Teenage Orphans of the Job Boom,” reported on the difficulty that low-income and minority youth were having finding jobs during the mid-1980s, the Reagan era of prosperity. If we saw the same problem twenty years ago during a better economic time, what chance do we have to help them now, during a prolonged recession?