Teens Without Jobs Hits 20-Year Low
The American job market is no place for students as the number of employed high schoolers has hit its lowest level in more than 20 years, according to new figures from the National Center for Education Statistics.
Young workers are having a hard time getting even entry-level jobs. McDonald's managers, who once hired a lot of first-time workers, now can choose older employees with more experience who don't have to wait until classes end to show up. (Associated Press)
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In 1990, 32 percent of high school students held jobs, versus just 16 percent now. Blame their elders.
Sectors that traditionally have offered teens their first paying gig -- fast-food chains, movie theaters, malls and big-box retailers -- have now become the last resorts for out-of-work college graduates or older Americans forced back into the labor force out of sheer financial necessity. The resulting squeeze has left students on the outside looking in.
"By definition, teenage workers get the jobs that are left over," said Charles Hirschman, a sociology professor at the University of Washington who has studied and written about student employment. "When you can't find someone else to bag your groceries or work construction, often teenagers are the labor force you can count on to pick up that slack for a low wage. But now, with the recession, everybody has moved down. Those jobs aren't going to teenagers."
The decline began in the 1990s, but accelerated in the past decade. It has grown worse since the dawn of the Great Recession, analysts say.
Local McDonald's managers, for example, are no longer forced to accept young workers who can show up after class. They now have the option to hire older employees with more experience and, in many cases, much more education.
"They think, 'I can hire this old guy instead. He already knows how to work, so we don't need to teach him,' " said Andrew Sum, director of Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies. "It's a real weakness in our labor market right now. We're going to need a big increase in demand to turn this around in the short run."
The crunch is also hitting college students. In 2000, 52 percent of full-time college students worked. That number has now fallen to 40 percent, the National Center for Education Statistics reports.
Some may interpret the NCES numbers as a sign that today's generation of young people simply has grown lazier, but analysts say that's not necessarily the case. It's their opportunity to work, not their desire, that has fallen off a cliff.
Source: Washington Times | Ben Wolfgang
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