The Youth Unemployment Puzzle

March 18, 1983

Report Outline
Dimensions of the Problem
Federal Youth Job Programs
Developing a New System
Special Focus

Dimensions of the Problem

Youth Unemployment Rates at Record Levels

As the school year winds down, thousands of young Americans are beginning the annual search for summer jobs. But if past years are any indication, many youths will be unable to find work this summer. Youth unemployment is more visible during the summer months, when jobless youngsters spend their daylight hours on the streets rather than in school buildings. During the rest of the year, it generally takes an event like President Reagan's proposed “subminimum wage” for youth or House passage of a bill to create an “American Conservation Corps” to provide jobs for unemployed youth to focus attention on the problem. But statistics indicate that youth unemployment is a serious year-round concern.

Joblessness for 16- to 19-year-olds peaked at 24.5 percent in December 1982, the highest for this group since such measurements began in 1948, before slipping back to 22.7 percent in January and 22.2 percent in February. The overall unemployment rate in February was 10.4 percent. “We have a very serious job deficit for youth,” said Sar Levitan, an economics professor at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The dimensions of the problem are worse for minority youths. Blacks aged 16–19 had a February unemployment rate of 45.4 percent, almost two-and-one-half times higher than the rate for white teen-agers (19.7 percent).

Some economists and social scientists believe these statistics underestimate the extent of the problem, especially for minority youth. Labor-force participation for black youths in February was 33.5 percent, down 3.5 percent from one year earlier, and 23 percent lower than comparable figures for white youths. Because of their high unemployment and low participation rates, only 18.3 percent of all blacks aged 16 to 19 were employed in February. The comparable figure for whites aged 16–19 in February was 45.4 percent.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Mar. 06, 2020  Universal Basic Income
Mar. 18, 2016  The Gig Economy
Mar. 06, 2012  Youth Unemployment
Jul. 31, 2009  Straining the Safety Net
Apr. 10, 2009  Business Bankruptcy
Mar. 13, 2009  Vanishing Jobs
Apr. 25, 2003  Unemployment Benefits
Jan. 21, 1994  Worker Retraining
Sep. 09, 1988  Help Wanted: Why Jobs Are Hard to Fill
Mar. 18, 1983  The Youth Unemployment Puzzle
Dec. 24, 1982  Federal Jobs Programs
May 28, 1982  America's Employment Outlook
Jun. 27, 1980  Unemployment Compensation
Oct. 14, 1977  Youth Unemployment
Jul. 11, 1975  Underemployment in America
Dec. 16, 1970  Unemployment in Recessions
Mar. 05, 1965  Unemployment Benefits in Times of Prosperity
Apr. 03, 1964  Overtime Pay Rates and Unemployment
Feb. 01, 1961  Unemployment and New Jobs
Jan. 07, 1959  Lag in Employment
Apr. 16, 1958  Emergency Jobless Aid
May 16, 1956  Lay-Off Pay Plans
Nov. 12, 1953  Jobless Compensation in Boom and Recession
Feb. 25, 1949  Defenses Against Unemployment
Jul. 30, 1945  Full Employment
Nov. 25, 1940  Unemployment Compensation
Jul. 10, 1939  Problem of the Migrant Unemployed
May 19, 1936  Unemployment and Recovery
Sep. 02, 1931  Public Employment Exchanges
Aug. 19, 1929  The Stabilization of Employment
Feb. 21, 1928  The Employment Situation in the United States
Jan. 23, 1926  Unemployment Insurance in the United States
Unemployment and Employment Programs