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Monday, November 14, 2011

R.I.P. Teen Workforce

Last Thursday, my friend GYSC had a post at his blog Economic Disconnect titled Odd Jobs Over the Years. He outlined the jobs he has had over the years, many of them during his pre-teen / teenage years.

Reading the post allowed for some self reflection on jobs I had before turning 20 (lawn mowing, snow shoveling, race track concession stand, snack bar at a swim club, waiter at a retirement community, waiter at a diner, painter, medical assembly line, data entry at a local college... to name a few). While some of these jobs were miserable and some quite enjoyable, I truly believe that in aggregate they helped me figure out what it was that I wanted to be (and what I didn't), the "rules" of work, as well as the importance of hard work.

Which is why the below chart is absolutely terrifying to me. It shows that for the next generation of teens (and now early 20-somethings) only 1 in 4 teens are employed, down from the 40-50% range from 1950 through the end of the century. A large portion of the next generation will be left behind.



I had the above post all ready to go, when I came across a similar post over at Rortybomb, but that post points to something perhaps more concerning:
To leave the United States for a minute, one way people are trying to understand the Arab Spring is through the lens of mass youth unemployment and inequality. Given how high unemployment has been in these MENA – Middle-East and North African – countries, what else could we expect besides revolution?
He then shows a series of charts (this one is telling) that shows unemployment among the youth in MENA countries is awfully similar to levels seen among 16-24 year olds in the U.S.

Source: BLS