Teen Angst Rises as Job Market Falls

Jessie Kathan, Asst. Editor-in-Chief and News Editor

Rising unemployment figures have become the norm for our generation. Many teens have already been affected as parents lose jobs or college saving portfolios take a hit. Now, though, teens may experience the recession firsthand when they look for work and find traraditional teen jobs gone.

As the number and strength of small businesses diminishes, many teen jobs just aren’t there anymore. Even chains that are hiring entry-level positions may not be hiring teens. Many teens just can’t compete with educated, unemployed adults who apply for retail and food service jobs. According to the Labor Department, in May of this year, teen unemployment reached a high of 24%, an eleven percent increase from 2000. The number of teens working in July was the lowest since 1948.

As new businesses open around Lamorinda, teens eagerly wait for job application forms, but for many, these new businesses will not translate into new opportunities. Aside from the competition from adults, many businesses will not hire minors. Both Chipotle and Dollar Tree will not even consider an applicant under 18.

For businesses with tight budgets, hiring teens may not seem like a priority. It should be.

For teens who have to help put themselves through college, a part time job isn’t only a way to make extra cash – it’s a foot in the door. Widespread teen unemployment can translate into higher crime rates and a harder time entering the job market later.  This is a setup for a nation of college educated young people with massive student loans who have never held a job.

What it takes to reverse that process is businesses that are willing to hire young people, even those without experience, and give them the skills needed to prepare them for the future.