This is not a good place to be young and looking for a job, according to a report from Brookings released Friday. And it’s gotten worse in the last decade.
The Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings looked at several sources of national data to compare employment rates from 2000 and 2012 in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas. They divided the data into three age groups: 16 to 19, 20 to 24 and 25 and older.
The news was bleakest, both nationally and in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA, for teenagers looking for work.
According to data accompanying the report, dubbed, “The plummeting Labor Market Fortunes of Teens and Young Adults,” 44 percent of those 16 to 19 who wanted to work found employment in 2000. By 2012 it was down to 36.2 percent.
Yet, compared to national numbers, teens in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties were better off. The rate for the United States in 2000 was 41.7 percent, but it dropped to 27.5 by 2012.
Local rates closely paralleled national rates in the 20 to 24 age group: 68.2 percent in 2000 and 64.1 percent in 2012 for the area compared to 68.5 percent and 63.1 percent.
In fact, the 20 to 24 age group has the best employment rate of the three groups, particularly in this area, considering the plus-25 local rates were 57.4 percent in 2000 and and 58.7 percent in 2012. Nationally, the 25-plus group is closer to the 20 to 24 demographic: 62.4 percent compared to 61 percent
The report puts the data in dire terms: “On a number of measures — employment rates, labor force under-utilization, unemployment, and year-round joblessness — teens and young adults fared poorly, and sometimes disastrously,” the summary contends.
The report does note that, “Among teens, employment should be considered complementary to education, since the first priority is to attend school full-time and complete high school.”
But it goes on to tout, at least conditionally, the value of teens finding work: “Evidence suggests that teen employment is associated with improved employment and earnings outcomes later in life, although there is some debate about how much work for high school students is appropriate.”
That said, the report notes those 55 and older “were more likely to be working in 2011,” while those 16 to 19 “experienced the most dramatic decline in employment rates.” The 26 percent national rate is “the lowest rate for teens in the post-World War II era.”
In a bit of “bad news is good news” way, the local numbers had a perverse upside. Things may have gone downhill for teens and those under 25 here, but they took a deeper dive in most of the 100 metropolitan statistical areas looked at.
Region beats norm
In 2000, having a 44 percent employment rate for teens put Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton near the middle of the pack of 100 MSAs, ranking the area 54th. The 36.2 percent rate of 2012 may look like a big drop, other areas had much steeper declines, and this area actually moved well up the charts, from that 54th place to seventh nationally.
The report offers several broad ideas to improve youth employment rates:
• Incorporate more work-based learning (such as apprenticeships, co-ops, and internships) into education and training.
• Create tighter linkages between secondary and post-secondary education.
• Ensure training meets regional labor market needs.
• Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, given to low and moderate income families.
• Facilitate the transition of young people into the labor market through enhanced career counseling, mentoring, occupational and work-readiness skills development, and the creation of short-term subsidized jobs.