June 3 2014
Patrice J. Lee
The temperatures are rising and while we haven’t yet hit summer on the calendar, young people across the country are ready to abandon the classroom for two months of vacation.
For many enterprising high school students, summer vacation is an opportunity for them to get their feet wet in the job market through positions as life guards, office interns, camp counselors, ice cream scoopers, receptionists, amusement park workers, and more. However, for millions of teens, finding employment will be particularly difficult this summer.
According to new analysis based on Census Bureau data, youth summer employment rates are staggeringly high. In two of the nation’s largest cities –Riverside, CA and Portland, OR – unemployment among teens without a high school diploma is more than 50 percent. Most of the top 15 areas are above 30 percent and include cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Chicago, Sacramento, Seattle, St. Louis, and Dallas.
The response of policymakers: push for economic policies that will only make these numbers worse. A number of these cities are pushing for raises in minimum wage, which as has been reported, will disproportionately hurt unskilled and low-skilled workers such as students and young people.
Using U.S. Census Bureau data from May 2013 to April 2014, the analysis reveals that in Riverside-San Bernardino area of Southern California, the unemployment rate for teens ages 16 to 19 years old who don’t have a high school diploma is 54.2 percent.
In the Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, Ore., metropolitan area, the unemployment rate from that population is 53.8 percent.
“These numbers are staggering,” Michael Saltsman, director of research at EPI told CNSNews.com. “Teens across the country this summer are missing out on valuable work experience as they continue to suffer through an extended period of high unemployment and difficult job prospects.”
Saltsman said these young people would be hurt more if state and federal legislators increase the minimum wage.
“You can’t dramatically increase the minimum wage without consequences for the least skilled individuals,” Saltsman said, adding that if cost increases can’t be offset through higher prices, businesses will likely cut personnel starting with the least skilled workers.
Raising the minimum wage is a progressive strategy to regain ground with voters this fall. On the national level the President used the power of his pen to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 an hour and then challenged Congress to play follow the leader. Lawmakers across the country also got the memo and are pushing for state and local minimum wage rises.
They hype the projected benefits of higher wages for poor and working class families, but ignore the impact on small businesses which will bear the full brunt of those costs.
Earlier this year, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office predicted that raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 would cost half a million jobs. Furthermore, women would be disproportionately hit, so if you’re a female teen, your employment prospects look pretty grim.
Young people are already at huge disadvantage in the job-light economic recovery. With a 16-percent unemployment rate, many are already behind in the job market and will probably have stunted career development for years – perhaps even decades.
That’s unacceptable. Young people need to reclaim their future by holding policymakers accountable for ill-advised and ill-conceived policies that are stalling our future.