WNPR

Teen Unemployment, at Historic Highs, Poses Challenges in Connecticut

Oct 21, 2015

Unemployment among teenagers and young people in Connecticut stands at historic highs. New research suggests that those who suffer periods of unemployment early in their careers pay a penalty in terms of lowered earnings decades into their careers.

The problem is worse for minority youth. Thirty percent of young African Americans who want to work are unemployed, and 19 percent of Hispanic youth also can’t find jobs.

Alicia Sasser Modestino is a professor of public policy and economics at Northeastern University. She told WNPR’s Where We Live that the recent debate over increasing the minimum wage may make the situation worse for teens.

“As we have seen more and more adults shifting into minimum wage jobs that were previously held by a lot of teenagers, you get more of an impetus for creating a living wage for those jobs so that those people can support their families,” Sasser Modestino said. “But I can definitely tell you that those who will suffer the adverse consequences, in terms of losing their jobs, will be the least skilled, which will most likely be teens.”

Teen employment has been declining since the 1990s, and has a disproportionate effect for young people from low-income families.

Cyncere Preston is a junior in high school in Hartford. She said that finding a job is not a luxury for many young people.

“It’s really important for me right now, since I’m a junior,” Preston said. “I’m trying to put up money for college, and books cost a lot of money; tuition, all of that. It’s been pretty tough, because most of the times, the employers don’t get back at all. But sometimes they will email me back and ask me some questions, but then when I reply to the email, I never hear from them again.”

Youth unemployment rates now run at more than double those of the general population.