The reopening of the economy – coupled with the reluctance of some older workers to return to low-wage jobs during a pandemic – has brought a rain of jobs for young people, economists say.
A Bureau of Labor Statistics report said more than 5.4 million American teens aged 16 to 19 were employed in May, an increase of 400,000 from May 2019 and 1.5 million from compared to the same month in 2020. The unemployment rate for the age group fell to 9.6% last month.
“This is something we haven’t seen in decades,” said Lisa Lynch, former chief economist for the US Department of Labor who now teaches at Brandeis University.
BLS figures indicate that the last time teens hit single-digit unemployment was in 1956.
Even among black youth, who are more likely to be unemployed than their white counterparts, unemployment was at its lowest level in 31 years, at 12.1%, according to the BLS.
We are a long way from last year, when the coronavirus pandemic closed businesses and particularly affected young people. While unemployment peaked at 14.8% for the general US population in April 2020, it was 32.1% among all 16 to 19 year olds.
But, while more Americans have told the BLS this year that they aren’t looking for work due to increased family responsibilities, illness, or school, teens are not. and other young people. In a survey of inactive people, the number of people aged 16 to 24 who say they are not looking for work decreased by around 700,000 compared to May 2020.
When 16-year-old Jada Faulks saw counseling positions listed for the Marietta (Ga.) Police Track League Summer Day Camp, it felt natural.
“I’m with kids 24/7, at home, at church, and in 4-H programs,” she said. She chose it at a job fair organized by WorkSource Cobb.
“It’s close to where I live and it seemed the most fun to me,” Faulks said. She plans to save half the money she earns for college, half for a car.
Summer jobs can be a way for young workers to acquire not only money but also life skills, said Ethan Sandhagen, another counselor at the camp.
His three summers at the Police Athletic League have allowed him to spend money and more. After this year’s camp, the 23-year-old Kennesaw State University graduate will return home to Statesboro, Ga., To teach elementary school.
“It really helped me feel more comfortable around kids,” he said.
Of course, the summer influx of workers doesn’t just help those who find a job. It also helps businesses, especially this year.
Businesses across the country, from restaurants to chicken processors, have reported staffing issues.
Jaime Hoefling, co-owner of several fast food restaurants, said he was struggling to find workers. Its Moe’s Southwest Grill in Newnan, Georgia, which is expected to have 25 employees, has only nine. He relies on the payment of overtime to maintain the restaurant staff.
Companies typically hire teenagers during the summer months. This year he had so few applicants that he asked his teenage employees to convince their friends to apply. “But it’s still a long way from where we need to be,” Hoefling said.
He believes that additional unemployment benefits paid by the federal government could prevent some older people from working. Georgia officials have said the state will stop participating in such federal pandemic programs later this month. State and federal benefits can total the equivalent of over $ 16 an hour.
Alexandra Edwards, a 20-year-old Georgia Tech student interning at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Stone Mountain, Ga., Said that due to the pandemic, she and many of her friends had more time to relax. start looking for a job, and the competition for them seemed tougher this year.
“I see people applying for more things outside of their fields,” she said. She is a neuroscience student learning management skills in the field.
“It’s very convenient… learning all the background operations behind the scenes of one of the largest supply chains in the world,” she said. “I get my hands dirty and learn all I can while I’m here.”
Ashley Lansdale, a spokesperson for Amazon, said the company has more interns than ever before – nearly 1,300 students, 33 of them in Georgia.
Edwards said she loved the job. And the money.
“Quite honestly, I intend to invest it,” she said.
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