Youth and Work - Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connection to Opportunity

Youth employment is at its lowest level since World War II; only about half of young people ages 16 to 24 held jobs in 2011.

1) Among the teens in that group, only 1 in 4 is now employed, compared to 46 percent in 2000. Overall, 6.5 million people ages 16 to 24 are both out of school and out of work, statistics that suggest dire consequences for financial stability and employment prospects in that population.

2) More and more doors are closing for these young people. Entry-level jobs at fast-food restaurants and clothing stores that high school dropouts once could depend on to start their careers now go to older workers with better experience and credentials. It often takes a GED to get a job flipping hamburgers. Even some with college degrees are having trouble finding work. At this rate, a generation will grow up with little early work experience, missing the chance to build knowledge and the job-readiness skills that come from holding part-time and starter jobs.

This waste of talent and earnings potential has profound consequences for these young people, and for our economy and our nation. When young people lack connections to jobs and school, government spends more to support them. Many already have children of their own, exacerbating the intergenerational cycle of poverty in some communities. Yet even as young people struggle to gain experience and find any type of job, businesses cannot find the skilled workers they need to compete in the ever-changing 21st-century economy.

(From The Annie E. Casey Foundation)

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