No Teens Wanted

No Teens Wanted

Teens are getting squeezed out of the job market by young college grads, women, and recent immigrants.

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“The Age Twist in Employment Rates, 2000–2004” by Andrew Sum and Ishwar Khatiwada, with Sheila Palma, in Challenge (July–Aug. 2005), M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 80 Business Park Dr., Armonk, N.Y. 10504.

The U.S. economy’s lackluster job creation after the Internet bubble popped five years ago has often been noted and bemoaned. What’s been missed, though, is the impact the recent rate of job creation has had on one group in particular: teen­agers. Between 2000 and 2004, the teen employment rate fell from 45 percent to 36 percent, a record low. The number of employed teenagers was reduced by nearly 1.3 million.

No other age group experienced such a large decline, report Sum, director of Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies, and two colleagues. Hardest hit, after teens, were the twentysomethings, whose employment rate fell by about four percentage points—to 68 percent for those under 25, and to 77 percent for those over 25. Even as America’s young disappeared from the workplace, the employment rate rose among people 55 and older. About 27 percent of Americans aged 65 to 69 were drawing paychecks last year, a three-point hike from the level four years earlier. For workers of all ages, the overall employment rate fell only about two points.

Who was filling the jobs that might have gone to teens? Young college graduates settling for lower-paying jobs, older women without college degrees getting positions in retail sales, and recent immigrants under 30 taking entry-level work. “Steady, high levels of payroll job growth will be needed” in the next few years if teens are not to be left idle, Sum and his colleagues conclude.

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