A similar trend is evident in the labor force participation rate. Graph 1 shows a downward trend since 2000, but the peak was a decade earlier. Data through November was used to estimate 2011 annual figures. There are a number of factors responsible for the decline. More youth are enrolling in post-secondary education, and therefore not in the workforce. School enrollment for 16 to 19 year olds has risen to 83 percent, up from 78 percent in the mid-1990s. The more disturbing factor is the economy. With youth unemployment rates at near record levels, there are many who dropped out of the labor market, and are waiting for more evidence of hiring demand before knocking on employers' doors again.
My own first job probably violated child labor and unemployment insurance laws, working late into the evening "under the table" at my mom's concession stand at a baseball field. I've been employed (legally) for all but a few weeks in the subsequent 35 years. Looking back, I realize how lucky I was to have a job, and keep one during ups and downs in the economy over that time. Many today have not had such good fortune. In a Time article, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks to the long-term effect of the lack of youth jobs, "From the perspective of America's economic future, the effect of the recession on young workers is particularly worrisome." In that article, Joseph Walsh, Director of Washington, DC's Department of Employment laments, "If we lose a generation of workers, there is no way this economy is going to stay competitive."
Since 1948, unemployment rates for male youth were an average of 1.8 percentage points above rates for female youth. There were some exceptions: during some years in the 1960s and the early 1970s, female rates were slightly higher than male unemployment rates. Since then, male unemployment rates exceeded female rates. In 2000, the male youth unemployment rate was only 0.8 percentage point higher than for female youth. By 2006, youth male unemployment was 1.5 percentage points higher than female rates. In 2009, that gap increased to 5.2 percentage points, showing that the "he-cession's" impact has also been more pronounced for male youth than for female youth. In 2011, the gap shrunk to 2.9 percentage points, as youth female unemployment inched up from 15.8 to 15.9 percent, while youth male unemployment declined from 20.8 to 18.8 percent, based on 11 months of data in 2011.
points, rather than percent change. Because youth unemployment rates were higher than other groups back in 2007, the greatest percentage change in unemployment rates occurred for those ages 60 and older, up 130 percent over that time. Youths age 16 to 19 and those ages 20 to 24 had more modest percentage increases, 63 percent and 60 percent, respectively, over that time.
In 2010, Oregon's teens had the third-highest unemployment rate in the nation, behind only California and Nevada. For the last several years (2006-2008) Oregonians ages 16 to 19 years had an unemployment rate above 16 percent, and the rate for those ages 20 to 24 was near 10 percent. The 2009 spike took the teen unemployment rate above 30 percent and the rate for those ages 20 to 24 surged to 17 percent. In 2010, rates for those age groups fell slightly, to 28.8 and 14.4 percent, respectively.
LED data enable us to see which age groups lost the most private-sector payroll jobs and which industries employ the largest numbers of youth workers. Graph 4 displays the change in total private sector payroll jobs in Oregon by age group from the first quarter of 2008 - about the peak employment in Oregon - to the first quarter of 2011.
The recession's impact on youth is clear, and it is not pretty. During those three years, overall private-sector payroll jobs for all ages declined by 9.6 percent. Hardest hit, and by a large margin, were teen workers who saw their job numbers fall by 46 percent. Those in the next oldest age group, 19 to 21 years experienced the second largest decline, down 20.4 percent. On the other end of the age spectrum, the 55 and older group saw slight gains in total employment. In a statement from the Time article, In a Tough Job Market, Teens are Suffering the Most, "With fewer jobs to go around, older workers are settling for jobs that used to go to teens. Baby boomers, hurt by recent stock-market downturns, are hanging around longer." The article goes on to note, "From 2000 to 2007, the number of 55 to 64 years olds working in the retail industry rose by 553,000. At the same time, the number of teens who were able to snag jobs at stores fell 419,000." In an article published in The World (Coos Bay), A Tough Market for Teens, Marshfield High School Senior, Stephanie Schwenk, applied for a number of jobs, to no avail. She surmises, "In a down economy, they're going to hire older people with more experience." Graph 5 shows third quarter hiring, a quarter when leisure and hospitality is ramping up. Leisure is also an industry with a high percentage of younger workers. There is little evidence from this chart of any "recovery" in summer teen hiring, at least through 2010.
These data and statistics are not just numbers; they represent individuals who are impacted in many ways by the Great Recession and subsequent slow-growth recovery.