Report: Black Teens Hit Hard in Economic Downturn


Black teens were the worst hit by the recent Great Recession in the labor market, the capstone to a decade of plummeting employment rates among young workers, according to a recent report by the Alternative Schools Network.

According to “Trends in Teen Employment in Chicago, Illinois and the United States,” any gains made by the “War on Poverty” on the rate of employment among African-American teenagers were erased over the past decade.

Teens and young adults across the United States “have encountered extraordinarily severe declines in their employment rates—unmatched by any other age group,” the report stated. “While the economy appears to be growing at a stronger rate following the Great Recession, youth employment has seen little to no growth.”

Nationally, the teen employment rate fell from 36 percent in pre-recession 2006 to just 27 percent in 2012, the lowest employment rate among that group since World War II, the report found.

But according to the most recent jobs report from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, in December the employment rate among teens spiraled even farther, to 20.2 percent.

Among African-American teens, and particularly among those from low-income households earning less than $20,000 annually, the prospects were even more dismal. In 2006, 25 percent of young Blacks were employed, compared to 18 percent in 2012. Across the nation in 2012, only 13 percent of Black teens from low-income households were employed.

Black male teens faced particularly long odds of obtaining a job. For example, in Chicago 92 percent of all Black male teens ages 16 to 19 were jobless in 2012.

Advocacy groups have long argued that high rates of unemployment among teenagers and young adults decrease their future employability and darkens their economic prospects. That trend also feeds high rates of violence and delinquency, all of which limit the socioeconomic development of their communities.

“The exclusion of teens from the job market is likely to continue and brings with it bleak economic prospects, limited earnings potential, and significant taxpayer burden for the magnitude of dropouts who are jobless in their youth,” the report concluded. “Investment must be made to create 2014 summer and year-round employment opportunities for teens and young adults in order to have a substantial effect on the record youth joblessness.

“Job creation for teens and young adults has to be an immediate priority,” the report found.

Report: Black Teens Hit Hard in Economic Downturn

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