This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

April 18, 2007

Teen Unemployment---A Future Problem for Employers

Between 2004 and 2007, teen unemployment in the United States has hit record levels. These historic highs present a significant challenge for forward-thinking employers. We suspect that this problem is global in scope.

This joblessness among teens is a real problem for employers affected by the tightening labor market. Ken Smith, president and CEO of Jobs for America's Graduates, an Alexandria, Virginia.-based non-profit that helps more than 40,000 youth each year transition from school to work, knows this problem well. He said, "The economy is humming along, and employers are almost desperate for people they can hire and train. Contrast that with the lowest teen market penetration in 50 years…The connection point is not being made." This situation presents a critical workforce challenge for future-focused employers and communities.

According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 37 percent of teens nationwide worked in the summer of 2006---that’s down nearly 11 percent from 1999, the crest of the US economic boom.

Certainly, the recession of 2001 took its toll on the teens’ ability to get jobs, but when the economy became robust again, teen employment did not recover as expected. Instead, teen employment has continued to plummet. For summer 2006, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, teens had an unemployment rate of 16.5 percent--four times higher than that of adults during the same period.

The two major groups replacing US teens are immigrants and seniors. Immigrants are often willing to accept the less pleasant jobs that some teens had been willing to take on; seniors have a well-deserved reputation for being more stable, reliable, and responsible than young people, many of whom have never held long-term employment. Frequently, the older workers need the money to supplement their fixed incomes; the teenagers are looking to supplement their, often generous, allowances.

Employers who want to assure themselves of an available pipeline of qualified workers must begin now to offer internships and sponsor worthwhile organizations like FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). For more information, see our Herman Trend Alert on FIRST.


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