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Teens face high unemployment

A teen holds a "Help Wanted" sign

Tess Vigeland: There's certainly going to be a ways to go for young people, whether they're looking for a summer job to help pay next year's college fees or they're heading into the workforce right after high school -- they face unemployment more than twice the national average. And it's even worse for minority teens: a quarter of Hispanic kids and 40 percent of blacks who are looking for a job can't find one.

Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman went to a large urban high school in Portland, Ore., to take the employment pulse of the Class of 2011.


Mitchell Hartman: There's a bit of pre-graduation giddiness in the air at David Douglas High School. It's got 3,000 students -- the majority on free or reduced lunch.

Just a quarter of seniors are heading to college. Most of the rest will try to find work.

Jordy Montes: I haven't had a job in the summer before. You know, I'm hoping that with a high school diploma, I'll probably be able to find a job easier.

That's senior Jordy Montes, and he faces stiff odds -- one in four Hispanic teens is unemployed. School counselor Deb Murray says Montes has it better than previous grads.

Deb Murray: In the past two years, we have had very few part-time jobs. This year, there has actually been an uptick -- mostly office, and of course, fast food.

Margarita Lares: I am currently employed at a fast food place: Taco Bell.

Margarita Lares counts herself lucky.

Lares: I have a variety of friends who are constantly looking for jobs, especially at fast food places, and they constantly tell me, 'oh, hook me up with a job.' But it's really difficult.

This summer, Lares will train to be a 911 operator. Economist Gary Burtless at the Brookings Institution says that could be a ticket out of minimum-wage territory.

Gary Burtless: Young people who do not have an educational credential after high school have been in a very, very weak bargaining position by the time they reach their 30s.

Families can't offer much help. Many of these students' parents are laid off or on reduced hours.

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.

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