Youth and Young Adult Employment: Data, Challenges, and Solutions

This summer, teenagers are much less likely to work retail or scoop ice cream than they were in 1989, when youth labor force participation peaked at 78%. In addition to several decades of steady decline, youth employment rates were especially hard hit by the Great Recession. While rates have stabilized since 2010, they remain well under 1989 levels. The following resources highlight strategies for increasing youth employment through employer-led solutions and by analyzing labor market data.

Unemployment among Young Adults: Exploring Employer-Led Solutions. July 2015. This study examines strategies to reduce unemployment among younger workers in Chicago, Illinois and Louisville, Kentucky. The authors focus specifically on strategies to improve employment outcomes for workers aged 18 to 29 without bachelor’s degrees while meeting the needs of employers. The study uses quantitative and qualitative methods, such as analysis of administrative data and interviews with employers, training providers, and other key stakeholders that produced several recommendations. The recommendations include an emphasis on improving education and employment outcomes for black and Hispanic youth; highlighting manufacturing, transportation, logistics, and health care as especially promising sectors for younger workers; and developing younger employees’ skills to match those desired by employers.

A Frayed Connection: Joblessness among Teens in Chicago. January 2015. This report examines employment rates for teenagers in the city of Chicago, Illinois and across the United States from the years 2000-2014, describes the employment trends for teenagers in the 25 largest cities in the country, and explores the variation in employment rates of teenagers across gender, race, and ethnicity. The study also more specifically focuses on teenage employment in Chicago during 2012 and 2013 and highlights the rate of disconnected teenagers in that city.

The Plummeting Labor Market Fortunes of Teens and Young Adults. March 2014. This report analyzes labor force data for teens and young adults between 2000 and 2011, and highlights the low employment levels for these age groups across the country’s 100 largest metropolitan areas. It also examines teen and young adult labor force participation by subgroups, including household income levels, education levels, and ethnicity. The study also describes the reductions in employment due to the Great Recession, and offers recommendations to increase teen and young adult labor force participation such as increased use of work-based learning, stronger connections between secondary and post-secondary education, and additional focus on career counseling and mentoring.