Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

State News

April 17, 2012

Employers encourages to hire teens

INDIANAPOLIS — If the teenagers in your house had a hard time finding a job last year, they weren't alone.

The number of employed teen were near record lows last summer, and this summer may not look too much better.

Even as the economy seems to be recovering and adding more jobs overall, teenagers still face a tough time finding work.

According to the latest unemployment figures, the jobless rate nationally among 16- to 19-year-olds was almost 24 percent – about three times higher than the overall jobless rate. In 2011, when the latest state data is available for teen employment, the jobless rate averaged 19 percent.

It's worse for some than others. The most recent numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor said unemployment for Hispanic teens in February was up to 27.5 percent; for black teens, it was up to almost 35 percent.

"The numbers are discouraging," said Michael Hicks, an economist and director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University.

They're not likely to get better any time soon, Hicks said.

He noted the high teen unemployment rate is an indicator of a larger jobs problem. The overall unemployment rate doubled after the recession hit in late 2010. It's been slowly moving down, but still hovering around 8.3 percent nationally. (It was 8.4 percent in Indiana in February.)

Employers who hire teens in hourly, minimum-wage jobs have been slower to add more jobs, Hicks said. A rise in the federal minimum wage, phased in from 2007 to 2009, meant increased labor costs. Those employers were reluctant to pass on those higher labor costs to their customers, so they cut their teen workers and many haven't added them back, Hicks said.

"The kids who were really hurt by it are the ones who need the jobs most," Hicks said.

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