ANN BELSER - Jobs for teenagers and even young adults are scarce nearly four years after the official end of the Great Recession. It is a trend that has some researchers worried not just about the young people, but also about the health of industries.
The problem with high youth unemployment goes beyond young people not having pocket cash or savings; the bigger problem is that young people who don't work don't have any work experience.
Or as Stefani Pashman, CEO of the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board in Pittsburgh, put it, "You learn to work by working."
Before the turn of the century, when the economy was better, young people could be found in many industries. Now they are concentrated in fast food chains, restaurants and retail stores.
Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, said that since 2000, teenagers have been shut out of jobs in finance, such as working as bank tellers; manufacturing, working on assembly lines and construction. Adults who are out of work are taking those jobs.
Even newspaper delivery, which used to be the bailiwick of the pre-teen set on bicycles, is now a job for adults with cars.
Pashman said industries that don't hire teens for summer or after-school jobs are also putting themselves at risk as they decrease their available talent pool.
Sum said the unemployment numbers don't tell the whole story because they don't include teens who are not looking for work because they think they can't get a job.
Even summer jobs are elusive for teens.
Sum said 51.7 percent of teenagers had summer jobs in 2000. Last summer, just 30.5 percent of teens worked during the summer. In a paper he wrote for the Center for Labor Market Studies, he said the situation looks just about as bleak for teens looking for work in the coming months.
The chance to work is even less for young people who are poor, black or Hispanic. For them, 1 in 10 teenagers had jobs. Meanwhile, 4 of 10 white teenagers in the suburbs whose parents have an income between $100,000 and $150,000 a year were working.
"The question of who gets jobs is exactly the inverse of who needs help the most," he said.
Young people with just a high school degree or General Educational Development certificate but limited work experience have always found it harder to get work.
That work, Sum said, is important because the chances of a young person getting a job are higher if he or she has had a job. He also said companies are much more likely to spend money on training and career development on young people with previous work experience.
Sum added that young people in low- to middle-income families who don't work are more likely to drop out of high school, the girls are more likely to become teenage mothers and the boys have a higher likelihood for delinquency.
"The evidence suggests that the more work they did in high school had a significant impact on their earnings in their late teens and early 20s," he said.
Sum noted that the greatest predictor of whether a teenager will get a summer job is if they had a job the previous summer.
But employers are not hiring young people, he said, because they lack basic employment skills, which they can only pick up by having a job.
"There's not an app for that," he said.