« Where are we cutting? | Main | Changing what we eat »

August 18, 2008

Teenage unemployment

"Mike, you and I both had jobs as teenagers. As I reflect, I think working then was important not so much for the money but rather for the work skills I learned, like being on time, taking orders and working with others. Is paid work something teenagers can still easily do today?"

Dr. Mike Walden, North Carolina Cooperative Extension economist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University, responds:

"Well, of course we still have to work on that taking orders part, I don't know how well you learned that. But, no it's actually become much harder - unfortunately I think - in many respects for teenagers to get work. In fact, the gap between the teenage unemployment rate and the national unemployment rate is the highest it has been in 25 years, meaning that teenage unemployment is way off the charts. I think there are several reasons for this. One is we do have a higher minimum wage. In fact, we just got the latest up tick on that a couple of weeks ago. And of course, teenagers tend to have low skills, so they are going to be most adversely affected potentially by a higher minimum wage. Also I think companies are requiring more maturity in workers as our economy has become more competitive. And really, that upfront person you have in the store is actually much more important perhaps than in the past. So they are hiring more older teenagers, perhaps, if they do go the teenage route than younger ones. Then of course, this year we've got the slow economy. We also have labor laws requiring teens to work in nonhazardous jobs, and the definition of that has expanded. And then we also have another fact here that I find very interesting. Companies are giving their full-time employees vacation periods other than during the summer. So it used to be that a lot of your regular workforce was gone during the summer. You had to have teenagers come in. Now you're going to have, perhaps, some of your regular workforce there during the summer. That reduces the need to hire teenagers."

Posted by Dave at August 18, 2008 08:00 AM