Unemployment Remains Near 30 Percent for 16 to 17-Year-Olds

Employment Policies Institute Points to Consequences of Minimum Wage Hikes For Teens
  • Publication Date: June 2010

  • Topics: Minimum Wage, Teen Unemployment

WASHINGTON, DC – New data released today from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the unemployment rate for 16 to 17-year-olds rose to 29.8 percent in May, the third highest it has ever been. The number of employed 16 to 17-year-olds fell by 24,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis.

The unemployment rate for 16 to 19-year-old teens increased to 26.4 percent, with close to half of these unemployed teens (49.8 percent) searching for a job for the first time.

“This summer, the destructive combination of a prolonged recession and increases in the minimum wage is keeping teens out of work,” said Michael Saltsman, research fellow at EPI.

“Across the country, traditional summer employers like pools and produce farms are cutting back on hiring, citing higher labor costs.”

Nearly three-quarters of economists surveyed by the University of New Hampshire agreed that a higher minimum wage – including the 40 percent increase in the federal wage between July 2007 and July 2009 – causes employers to hire fewer entry-level employees, especially inexperienced teens.
Saltsman continued: “Teens without a summer job miss out on the ‘invisible curriculum’ that comes from reporting to an employer, showing up on time and interacting with customers.”

“With summer upon us, a top priority should be rolling back wage mandates that shut less-experienced teens out of work opportunities. Even the small step of creating a blanket lower entry wage for teens would improve job prospects this summer.”