Youth Labor Force Participation Rates and Unemployment Rates

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Youth unemployment during the Great Recession rose dramatically, and youth became one of the segments of our population that suffered the greatest barriers to entering and remaining in the labor force. 

Because early career planning with youth is so critical for setting them on a self-sufficient career path, informing yourself about dynamics and forces affecting youth in the labor force is important.

Youth and the Labor Force


The U.S. Congressional Research Service (CRS) issued an analysis, entitled “Youth and the Labor Force:Background and Trends,” examining employment, unemployment, earnings, and educational attainment trends among youth aged 16 to 24.

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CRS concluded, “Both…indicators [decreasing youth employment-to-population ratios and increasing youth unemployment] demonstrate that the labor market for youth is at historic lows in terms of opportunity.”  Youth employment-to-population ratios continued to erode even when the economy began to grow after the 2001 recession. [pp. 2, 17]

Among those aged 16 to 24 who were not in the labor force, 12.1 percent nonetheless wanted to work — such individuals who want to work, but often don't believe jobs are available, are popularly referred to as “discouraged workers.” [p. 5]

Regarding the extended impact, the research evidence suggests that youth who experience unemployment appear to have relatively lower long-term wages. [p. 25]

As to whether the trend toward continued employment by older individuals has exacerbated employment problems among youth, CRS concluded that “the research literature is somewhat mixed” on such a displacement. [p.18]

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Entering the Labor Force during a Recession

Youth entering the labor force during a recession also may have lower than average lifetime earnings overall.  This is due to youth taking entry-level jobs at lower wages than counterparts during non-recessionary periods, which sets them on a lower wage level trajectory. 

If their earnings starting point is significantly lower on the income scale to begin with, then some youth may not make up the lifetime earnings difference during their working life.

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Barriers Faced by Disadvantaged Youth

Disadvantaged and vulnerable youth need multiple strategies and service components to succeed in the world of work.  

Studies show that a variety of resources, support services, and the dedicated commitment of a case manager can lead to self-sufficiency for young people facing multiple hurdles to jump.

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Content Type: Resource
Target Populations: Youth customers - All

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Posted: 8/7/2017 8:43 PM
Posted By: Teresa Theis
Posted In: LMI Central
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