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Michael Hobbs' Blog

By Michael Hobbs | Appraiser in Chicago, IL

If You Thought Illinois Teenagers Had It Tough, Try Getting A Job!

As if being a teenager wasn't tough enough on its own, teenage employment has plummeted.  Last week, Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies issued a report that only 27.5 percent of teens in Illinois had jobs. That figure is only a little better than the nationwide figure, 26.4 percent.  Nonetheless, it was Illinois’ lowest figure in the 42 years. For comparison, nearly 50 percent all Illinois teens were working in 1999-2000.

The report indicated that geographical breakout shows employment figures climbed to 35 percent for 16- to 19-year-olds in Chicago suburbs and downstate communities, but only 16 percent of teens were employed in city of Chicago.  The figures are even worse for some teens.  Employment figures were bleakest for African-American teens,w here African-American youths whose families had incomes under $40,000 in 2010, only 10 percent were employed.  Teens from familes with higher incomes, making $60,000 to $80,000 a year, and from white families were more likely to be employed with 37.7 percent having jobs.

“A 25 percent employment rate doesn’t mean 75 percent are unemployed and looking for work,” said Ferk, associate dean of the College of Business and Management at University of Illinois at Springfield.

“You are not going to get from this report how many teens are looking and can’t find a job. I’m sure there are some. I’m also sure there are teens too busy with speech and sports and part of the underground economy getting paid cash baby-sitting.”  Older workers also are competing with teens for jobs in fast food — positions traditionally seen as a teen rite of passage.

In an article for the State Journal-Register in Springfield, Illinois, Ferk said the possible reasons for lower teen employment vary among the four categories into which the Northeastern study divided the teen work pool.

The categories and employment number breakouts were:

* High school students — 15.9 percent in Illinois, 16 percent nationwide;

* High school dropouts — 28.8 percent in Illinois, 29.3 percent nationwide;

* College students — 37.5 percent in Illinois, 35.5 percent nationwide; and

* High school graduates not currently pursuing further education — 61.4 percent in Illinois, 53.9 percent nationwide.

Breaking into the job market can be hard for a novice.

"It’s even harder when you haven’t prepared for the task", said Dyanne Ferk, associate dean of the College of Business and Management at the University of Illinois Springfield.

So, what does it all mean?  Unprepared teenagers are less likely to be able to fill the coming void being created by aging Baby-Boomers who will be exiting the workplace.  This gap is going to be magnified by firms having to consider outsourcing higher-paying jobs due to inability to hire talented, skilled employees.  Some possible  'alternatives' could include overseas agencies and even overseas 'employment centers' that provide talented workers round the clock via technology solutions (internet, VOIP, video conferencing, etc).

Indeed we are heading into a Brave New World.  Better fasten your seatbelt.

Michael Hobbs, PahRoo Appraisal & Consultancy

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