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May 4, 2013

Teenage joblessness can haunt kids later

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.

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