Monday, May 31, 2010

School's Out for Summer.... Now What?

Calculated Risk details 'Few Jobs for Students this Summer':

For summer jobs, this will probably be the worst year since the Great Depression.

This graph shows the unemployment rate for workers 16 to 24 years old (from the BLS), and the headline unemployment rate (blue). The unemployment rate hit a record 19.6% in April for this group.
No question that the chart Calculated Risk shows (16-24 year old unemployment) is ugly. As detailed above, the 19.6% is the highest rate on record, yet does compare closely with the 19% rate seen in November 1982 for 16-24 year olds. What is completely dislocated from the past is what we are currently seeing among 16-17 year olds (i.e. the high school [rather than college] working class).

While the unemployment rate among 16-17 year olds is 29.1% (from a 1980's peak of 27.1%), that rate is missing the fact that high school age kids quite simply are no longer bothering to look for jobs, thus are not counted in the unemployment rate. The following chart shows the percent of the 16-17 and 16-19 year old population employed as a percent of the population (the 16-17 year old employment levels have literally been halved over the last 10 years).

My concern regarding these unemployed teens is not necessarily related to their current situation (it sucks, but their consumption isn't dependent on their compensation - it is more broadly the "income" they are getting from their parents that matters). Rather, my concern is how this market will impact these workers over the long term. How many of "us" previous generations learned what it meant to "work" from these initial high school and college jobs (I was a painter, waiter at a diner, factory worker, lawn mower, and retirement community chef at various times before I turned 18)?

Source: BLS