Youth Unemployment Soars in Past Decade

Posted December 4, 2012
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Newsreleases youthandwork 2012

Near­ly 6.5 mil­lion U.S. teens and young adults are nei­ther in school nor in the work­force, veer­ing toward chron­ic under­em­ploy­ment as adults and fail­ing to gain the skills employ­ers need in the 21st cen­tu­ry, accord­ing to a new KIDS COUNT report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Many of these young peo­ple, rang­ing from ages 16 to 24, face numer­ous obsta­cles, accord­ing to the report, Youth and Work: Restor­ing Teen and Young Adult Con­nec­tions to Oppor­tu­ni­ty. Often described as dis­con­nect­ed youth, they are encoun­ter­ing greater com­pe­ti­tion from old­er work­ers for increas­ing­ly scarce entry-lev­el jobs, espe­cial­ly in light of the reces­sion. Many lack the high­er skill set required for the well-pay­ing jobs that are avail­able. They often don’t grad­u­ate from high school on time or pre­pared for col­lege, fur­ther decreas­ing their employ­ment options. And a num­ber of them con­tend with hur­dles beyond their con­trol, such as grow­ing up in pover­ty, hav­ing few work­ing adults as role mod­els, attend­ing low-per­form­ing schools and liv­ing with a sin­gle parent.

The lack of edu­ca­tion, oppor­tu­ni­ty and con­nec­tion to school or work has long-term impli­ca­tions, the report shows. Dis­con­nect­ed youth may become adults unable to achieve finan­cial sta­bil­i­ty and with­out employ­ment prospects. They also can present a sig­nif­i­cant cost to tax­pay­ers, as gov­ern­ment spends more to sup­port them. In addi­tion, the lat­est data from the U.S. Cen­sus Bureau’s Cur­rent Pop­u­la­tion Sur­vey shows about 20% or 1.4 mil­lion of these youths, have chil­dren of their own, which means their inabil­i­ty to find work and build careers can per­pet­u­ate an inter­gen­er­a­tional cycle of poverty.

All young peo­ple need oppor­tu­ni­ties to gain work expe­ri­ence and build the skills that are essen­tial to being suc­cess­ful as an adult,” said Patrick McCarthy, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Foun­da­tion. Ensur­ing youth are pre­pared for the high-skilled jobs avail­able in today’s econ­o­my must be a nation­al pri­or­i­ty, for the sake of their future roles as cit­i­zens and par­ents, the future of our work­force and the strength of our nation as a whole.”

Youth and Work presents state-by-state data and high­lights how these issues are exac­er­bat­ed among youth from low-income fam­i­lies and among minor­i­ty pop­u­la­tions. Among black and His­pan­ic teens (ages 16 to 19), 16% are out of school and work, com­pared to the nation­al aver­age of 13%. Sim­i­lar­ly, 29% of black young adults (ages 2024) and 23% of their His­pan­ic peers are dis­con­nect­ed, exceed­ing the nation’s 20% aver­age. Teen employ­ment also varies wide­ly among states, from 18% in Cal­i­for­nia and Flori­da to 46% in North Dako­ta in 2011.

The report empha­sizes the need to pro­vide mul­ti­ple, flex­i­ble path­ways to suc­cess for dis­con­nect­ed young peo­ple and to find ways to reen­gage high school dropouts. Youth and Work also advo­cates cre­at­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for youth in school or oth­er pub­lic sys­tems that allow them to gain ear­ly job expe­ri­ence through such avenues as com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice, intern­ships and sum­mer and part-time work. Its major rec­om­men­da­tions include:

  • A nation­al youth employ­ment strat­e­gy that stream­lines sys­tems and makes finan­cial aid, fund­ing and oth­er sup­port ser­vices more acces­si­ble and flex­i­ble; encour­ages more busi­ness­es to hire young peo­ple; and focus­es on results, not process.
  • Align­ing resources with­in com­mu­ni­ties and among pub­lic and pri­vate fun­ders to cre­ate col­lab­o­ra­tive efforts to sup­port youth.
  • Explor­ing new ways to cre­ate jobs through social enter­pris­es such as Good­will and microen­ter­pris­es, with the sup­port of pub­lic and pri­vate investors.
  • Employ­er-spon­sored earn-and-learn pro­grams that fos­ter the tal­ent and skills that busi­ness­es require — and devel­op the types of employ­ees they need.

No one sec­tor or sys­tem can solve this prob­lem alone — it demands a col­lec­tive and col­lab­o­ra­tive effort,” said Patrice Cromwell, direc­tor of eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment at the Casey Foun­da­tion. Busi­ness­es, gov­ern­ment, phil­an­thropy and com­mu­ni­ties must work togeth­er with young peo­ple to help them devel­op the skills and expe­ri­ence they need to achieve long-term suc­cess and finan­cial sta­bil­i­ty as adults.”

Youth and Work includes the lat­est youth employ­ment data for every state, the Dis­trict of Colum­bia and the nation. Addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion on dis­con­nect­ed youth and young adults is avail­able in the KIDS COUNT Data Cen­ter, which also con­tains the most recent nation­al, state and local data on hun­dreds of indi­ca­tors of child well-being. The Data Cen­ter allows users to cre­ate rank­ings, maps and graphs for use in pub­li­ca­tions and on web­sites, and to view real-time infor­ma­tion on mobile devices.

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