Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The "Joys" of the Unemployed Teenager

You ever read an article that attempts to be serious, but the "real-life" examples completely ruin the main argument? Here is one of the finest (and from The NY Times no less). Lets start with the main synopsis:

Numbers provide the backdrop to the story — not just the grimly familiar national unemployment rate, 9.5 percent in June, but the even scarier, less publicized unemployment figure for 16- to 19-year-olds, which has hit 24 percent, up from 16.1 percent two years ago.
Okay, so far so good. Unemployment among 16 to 19 year olds is approaching a 60 year high (more interesting - to me - is the variance among race... 16-19 year old Whites are close to the 25% level, whereas African-Americans are at 45% and Asians are all the way at the other side of the spectrum at 8%).

But the examples the story provides are absolutely unbelievable. I don't know about all you over-achieving readers, but when I was 18 I worked at a local diner and when I was 19, I painted houses. 20? Along with my first internship, I worked as a waiter in a retirement community for extra cash.

Did these jobs prepare me for my career in finance? Not at all. Did they teach me the value of hard work? Again, I would say not really. The motivation for what at the time was about $5 an hour after tax wasn't exactly over-powering. If I actually NEEDED the money at the time, it may have been a different story. So, you would assume the article shows people that NEED the money and due to the economic climate are seriously struggling. Lets see...
Across the country, there are countless tales like that of Morgan Henderson, a student at the University of San Francisco, who, along with friends, planned a big road trip to Las Vegas this summer. With so few of the friends finding jobs, they downgraded plans to a road trip to Reno, then to no road trip at all. They’re spending time watching DVDs at one another’s houses.
Hold it... I'm supposed to feel bad for a college student that gets to putz around San Francisco for four years because he can't go to Vegas? I'd literally PAY money to be able to watch DVD's at my friends house all summer. Lets see another...
When the White House didn’t come through, and neither did the State Department or dozens of companies he applied to, Mr. Ehrenfeld, 20, moved back home to Vernon, Conn. Even the local Boston Market had no work. Mr. Ehrenfeld, a top student who has always held leadership positions in clubs and academic groups, loafs through days, rolling out of bed around 11 and reading or playing trumpet or guitar. Nights, he sometimes meets up with friends who also have nowhere that they have to be in the morning, and they share a few cheap beers. “At worst, misery continues to have company,” he said.
I love that the NY Times used an example of a 20 year old in their story about unemployment among 16-19 years olds. I also like that Will wants to work at the White House, yet has the demeanor that he thinks it is okay to tell a reporter from the NY Times that he drinks underage with his buddies (hint - if you want to work at the White House, keep that private).

But the real question as to the validity of the 25% unemployment level is whether Will truly would rather make minimum wage at Boston Market than drink with his buddies and sleep until 11? If the answer is no (I will make the snap judgement and say it is), like many others who are actually between 16-19 years old, he shouldn't "officially" be included as a member of the workforce.

Source: BLS