Nonprofit Newswire | Youth Unemployment—A Lost Generation

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September 28, 2010; Source: Washington Examiner | Driving my daughter to school today, we both found remarkable the radio ad that said that one out of every twelve Americans was “trained”—meaning once employed—at McDonald’s, a stunning number. We’d guess that most of those McDonalds trainees started off young, the jobs were entry-level, and that they gave teens and young adults their first taste of the job market and an employment history.

Michael Saltsman of the nonprofit Employment Policies Institute says that teenage unemployment is now above 20 percent. According to Saltsman, a primary cause is the increase in the minimum wage, which Congress increased 40 percent between 2007 and 2009. Although the McDonalds radio ad was soliciting job applicants, Saltsman suggests that for Burger King and McDonalds, teen jobs are disappearing. “In exchange for low prices, American consumers are willing to clear their own tables and fill their own soda cups. This self-service is at the cost of employee hours, and more specifically at the cost of teen jobs.”

He contends that the early unemployment of teens puts them “at a higher risk of earning low wages, or suffering a future spell of unemployment . . . or more likely to drop out of high school or get involved in the criminal justice system.” He says we are creating a “lost generation” of teens. Since so many NPQ subscribers work for youth-serving nonprofits, we would love to get your take: (1) Are the portals for entry-level jobs for teens closing? (2) Are you having more trouble getting teens jobs due to higher federal and state minimum wage levels? And (3) If you have a different analysis than Saltsman’s, what is it—or is Saltsman right on the money (or right on the minimum wage)?—Rick Cohen

  • Newell Lessell

    Regarding teen unemployment: we recently ran a piece in The
    Alternative Staffing Report, a newsletter we produce, that touched on
    this issue (Teen Unemployment: Are Grandparents to Blame?). While
    increases in the minimum wage may be a factor, increased competition
    from workers displaced from higher paying jobs and increased labor
    participation of elder workers are likely making it harder for younger workers to enter the workforce.
    We also note that the teen unemployment crisis is borne primarily by
    the least affluent and minority teens.