Old timers often say that the young people in the U.S. today don’t have the work ethic of their predecessors. This may be true, but is this perceived weakness a symptom of a greater problem? Has the opportunity for many young people to find employment diminished, and thus made it harder for them to learn the necessary work ethic on the job?
Before we try to answer that question, let’s examine some evidence from a new analysis by the Employment Policy Institute (EPI) that shows unemployment among teens without a high school diploma is greater than 50% in two very large cities. CNS News reports:
Using U.S. Census Bureau data from May 2013 to April 2014, the analysis reveals that in Riverside-San Bernardino area of Southern California, the unemployment rate for teenagers 16 to 19 years old who don’t have a high school diploma is 54.2 percent.
In the Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, Ore., metropolitan area, the unemployment rate from that population is 53.8 percent.
“These numbers are staggering,” Michael Saltsman, director of research at EPI told CNSNews.com. “Teens across the country this summer are missing out on valuable work experience as they continue to suffer through an extended period of high unemployment and difficult job prospects.”
The national average for this age group and skill level is 21.6%, but the high unemployment rate for the least skilled young people is not contained to the west coast. Rounding out the top ten on the list are Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa An, CA (39%), San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA (37.5%), San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA (35.2%), Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE (33.2%), Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IN-IN-WI (33%), Pittsburgh, PA (32.9%), Sacramento-Arden-Arcade Roseville, CA (32.1%), and Baltimore-Towson, MD (31.4%)
The issue of teen unemployment is a complex one that has grown worse over the years. Often, people point to minimum wage laws as a driving force behind these disappointing employment numbers. Minimum wage is certainly partially to blame for the issue. Minimum wage laws reduce opportunities for employment by making low paying jobs for unskilled teenagers illegal. Companies are forced to lump those job functions in with a higher wage earner’s job duties, replace the duties with automation, or stop providing the services.