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Teenage unemployment in Chicago may get better

Posted on April 30, 2012

The rate of teenage unemployment in Chicago and other cities may be decreasing, according to a recent study.

Summer employment among teenagers is projected to increase over last year’s better-than-expected gains, according to the annual teen summer employment outlook released Tuesday by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Last year, teen employment gains during the summer months improved significantly after falling to record lows in 2010. Non-seasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show employment among 16- to 19-year-olds grew by 1,087,000 jobs from May through June last year. That was up 13.2 percent from the same period a year earlier, when the teen employment ranks grew by just 960,000.

The 960,000 teenagers added to payrolls in the summer of 2010 was the lowest level of seasonal hiring since 1949, when teen employment increased by only 932,000 from May through July.

“The teen job market definitely rebounded in 2011, with more than 1,000,000 teens finding new jobs. However, job gains among teens were still well below the levels achieved prior to the recession. While teen employment is likely to see further improvement this summer, job gains will probably once again fall short of pre-recession figures,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Teens were in high demand before the 2008 recession. From 2005 through 2007, employment among 16- to 19-year-olds grew by an average of 1.7 million during the summer months of May, June and July.

“Many of the same issues that kept teen hiring subdued over the last three years still exist. Employers are finding ways to meet demand with existing workers; states and local municipalities, which hire teenagers to work at camps, beaches, pools and parks, continue to struggle with massive spending deficits; and there are millions of Americans in their 20s, with and without college degrees, who are willing to take jobs that were typically filled by teenagers in the past,” said Challenger.

The good news is that on all of these fronts, the situation is improving. Overall, private sector employers have added nearly 4.0 million new workers to their payrolls since December 2009. Employment among 20- to 24-year-olds has experienced a net increase of 869,000 over the same period. Meanwhile, a March report http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=711 from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that state finances are indeed improving, albeit very slowly, with 10 states reporting new budget shortfalls totaling $3.7 billion.

“We are probably still several years away from teen summer hiring returning to pre-recession levels. Teenagers hoping to find employment this summer definitely want to start their searches now, if they have not already done so. And, they should not expect to find a job by simply filling out electronic applications through employer websites and online job boards. Those are great places to find opportunities, but the key is to engage in an active search that focuses on meeting with hiring managers face-to-face,” advised Challenger.