USA TODAY Full-Page Ad Highlights Unemployment Crisis Among Minority Teens

African-American Teen Unemployment at 32.3 Percent is Six Times the National Average; Teen Summer Job Climate Worst Since World War II
  • Publication Date: June 2008

  • Topics: Minimum Wage, Teen Unemployment

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the Employment Policies Institute (EPI) drew attention to the teen employment drought with a full-page advertisement in the USA TODAY. The ad raises the issue of minority teen unemployment, calling it the biggest crisis currently facing this population group.

The ad reads as follows:

The Biggest Minority Teen Crisis?

  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • Unemployment

“Sadly, African-American teen unemployment is nearly six times the national average and almost twice that of teens in general.  Find out more about what’s preventing teens from finding work and what it means for their future at www.minimumwage.com.”

The national unemployment rate jumped to 5.5 percent in May from 5 percent in April driven in large part by the 3.3 percentage point jump in teen unemployment.  Researchers at Northeastern University, who described summer 2007 as “the worst in post-World War II history” for teen summer employment, recently concluded that 2008 is poised to be “even worse.”

One of the prime reasons for this drastic employment drought is the mandated wage hikes that policy makers have adopted in an already difficult business environment.  Economic research confirms that increasing the minimum wage destroys jobs for low-skilled workers while doing little to address poverty.  According to economist David Neumark of the University of California at Irvine, for every 10 percent increase in the minimum wage, employment for high school dropouts and young black adults and teenagers falls by 8.5 percent. In the 14 months between June 2007, and August 2008, the United States minimum wage will have increased nearly three times that amount.

“Decades of economic research clearly demonstrate that minimum wage hikes result in job loss for the most vulnerable members of society,” said Rick Berman, Executive Director of the Employment Policies Institute. “The unintended consequence of the federal minimum wage hike is pricing some employees out of the workforce, and based on the recent unemployment data, it’s teens – minority teens especially – who are getting hit the hardest.”

“A summer job for a teen is much more than a paycheck: It’s a chance to gain important skills and learn the invisible curriculum that comes from being employed. Unfortunately many teens won’t have that opportunity this summer thanks to legislators who elected to embrace populist sound bites instead of sound economics,” Berman concluded. 

You can view the entire ad at www.epionline.org.

The Employment Policies Institute is a nonprofit research organization dedicated to studying public policy issues surrounding entry-level employment.  For additional information or to schedule an interview with a spokesperson call Tim Miller at 202.463.7650.