Youth Unemployment Remains High in Lane County

Youth Unemployment Remains High in Lane County

by Brian Rooney

September 7, 2016

Unemployment among youth is usually higher than it is among the older population. The unemployment rate of Lane County residents ages 16 to 19 averaged close to 20 percent in the years leading up to the Great Recession. The rate was around 10 percent for Lane County residents ages 20 to 24 during that period, while the overall unemployment rate was about 6 percent.

The recession created more competition from older, more experienced workers for available jobs, sending youth unemployment rates in Lane County to record highs. These rates have remained elevated even as rates for older workers have declined to prerecession levels.

Having a part-time or summer job used to be the normal situation for many teenagers. In Oregon, summer teen employment fell during the Great Recession. In 2009 and 2010, new hires in the third quarter (summer) for the 14 to 18 age group numbered fewer than 2,000. Before the recession, third quarter teen hires were closer to 3,50. Even that level of hiring was lower than in the 1990s. So, much like unemployment rates, the recession accelerated a trend that was already taking place in the teen labor market.

All age groups were damaged to some extent by the recession, but the effects on young workers could have much longer-term consequences. The workforce problems facing younger workers today may follow them well into the future through lower lifetime earnings. Many of the essential "soft" skills that employers value are gained through early work experiences. Getting younger workers to work, and establishing the experience and income that first jobs provide, is one of the key workforce challenges facing Lane County.