Makin' Money

A tough summer for teens

Chris Farrell Apr 5, 2011

Remember your teenage summer jobs? Mine included construction work, waiting on tables, camp counselor, bus boy, gas station attendant (yes, there used to be such a thing), and assorted other odd jobs. The pay was terrible. But we all learned a lot from our summer jobs, such as showing up on time, finishing tasks, getting along with workmates, and the like. Well, it’s going to be hard this summer for teens to get some work experience and make an income.

Teens have had a tough time finding work these past few years. Of course, who hasn’t? Teens by definition don’t have many skills to offer wary employers. They’re at the bottom of the hiring hierarchy. A recent report by the Employment Policy Institute suggests the job market will remain inhospitable this summer. Nationally, the teen unemployment rate was 24.5 percent in March. Their analysis shows that 25 states had teen unemployment rates above 25 percent.

A particularly dismaying figure: The unemployment rate for black teens is 42.1%.

The cold numbers seem best captured by the anguished lyrics from The Who’s rock anthem, Baba O’Reilly:

Don’t cry
Don’t raise your eye
Its only teenage wasteland

The summer job market for teens could be even worse than these steep unemployment numbers suggest. Federal and state budget cutters are targeting the kinds of programs that try to find teens jobs in the summer months.

Here are the 25 states with teenage unemployment above 25%.

State Teen Unemployment, 12-month average as of Jan. 2011*

Rank State Teen Unemployment Rate

1 Georgia 37.3%
2 California 34.2%
3 South Carolina 33.3%
4 Washington 33.2%
5 Nevada 32.9%
6 Mississippi 32.6%
7 Florida 30.9%
8 Arizona 30.9%
9 Alabama 30.6%
10 Michigan 28.9%
11 Oregon 28.7%
12 Arkansas 28.3%
13 Indiana 28.2%
14 New Mexico 28.1%
15 Connecticut 27.8%
16 North Carolina 27.2%
17 Hawaii 26.9%
18 Illinois 26.8%
19 Idaho 26.8%
20 West Virginia 26.6%
21 Tennessee 26.3%
22 Kentucky 26.1%
23 Rhode Island 25.9%
24 Montana 25.8%
25 New York 25.4%

Source: EPI Analysis of Current Population Survey data
*Most Recent Month Available

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