2005 June 02 Thursday
Teen Unemployment Rate Higher Due To Immigration

Employers prefer cheap immigrants with work experience over cheap teens.

But the number of adolescents nationwide embarking on that annual rite of passage is abating. Last summer, the teen employment rate was the lowest since 1948, with only 36 percent of those ages 16 to 19 holding jobs, down from 45 percent in 2000. This year, although some economists say an improving economy may boost the prospects of older teens, the latest forecast by Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies in Boston shows no budge in the overall summer employment rate.


The teen employment rate typically falls with national recessions, but it is not expected to recover this summer despite an improved economy, according to the Northeastern report. It is attributed, in part, to immigrants and older workers turning to hourly work. Employers often perceive older workers to be more mature or reliable and still available long after teens have returned to school.

Take away the foreign labor supply and suddenly employers want to hire teenagers.

Demand is particularly high in tourist-heavy areas, such as Cape Cod, where employers found themselves shut out of a seasonal worker visa program earlier this year.

What, economics works in the labor market too? You'd never believe it if you listened to open borders advocates who claim foreigners do jobs that Americans do not want to do. No, foreigners do jobs at lower wages and in ways more convenient to employers. But we end up subsidizing those foreigners through health care, social services, and the criminal justice system. Plus, we get lots of unemployed teens about whom my grandmother said it best: "Idle hands are the devil's workshop".

Andrew Sum, Director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, says teens are getting fewer jobs and lousier jobs and he fingers immigration as a cause.

Sum argued that the nation’s youth are still “young, restless, and jobless.” He focused on the labor market experiences of the nation’s teens (16-19) and young adults (20-24) over the past four years: the steep decline in their employment rates and accompanying deterioration in job quality; the adverse affects of the substantial influx of unskilled, immigrant labor and the unprecedented “age twist” in employment rates in the past four years. While the national teen employment rate declined to a new historical low in 2004, the nation experienced continuous growth in payroll employment, and the nation’s overall unemployment rate declined to 5.4 percent. The latter labor market developments normally would have been expected to raise teen employment rates.

Sum uses the employment/population ratio (E/P) as the best available indicator, he asserts, of the overall success of teens in the labor market. The official unemployment rate for teens can be misleading, Sum said, due to the high cyclical sensitivity of teen labor force behavior, and the fact that many teens simply do not enter the labor force when job prospects are negatively perceived. Thus, many jobless teens will not be classified as unemployed in the official labor force statistics.

Since 2000, the E/P ratio of the nation’s teens has fallen by nearly 9 percentage points, a drop more than four times as high as the E/P ratio decline for adults 20 and older. Young adults (20-29), except for those with a bachelor’s or graduate degree, also experienced a sharp decline in their E/P ratios, in contrast to the older segment of the population (55 and over) who experienced job growth between 2000 and 2004. Sum asserted that the magnitude of this “age twist” in the structure of employment rates is historically unprecedented.

Large foreign worker supply decreases demand for teen workers.

Why the huge loss of jobs for teens over the past four years? Sum believes a variety of demand and supply forces are at work, including increased competition from jobless adults, new college graduates, and immigrants. New foreign immigration has remained at high levels, and the influx of many low educated young immigrants over the past four years is an important reason why teens and young adults have found work at much lower rates than before. While there typically is no statistically significant wage difference between native born teens and young immigrants having the same skill sets, Sum said, employers are more likely to hire immigrants for a variety of reasons, such as easier recruitment, ability to work full-time as compared to part-time teenage employees, and a perceived reputation of many immigrants as hardworking and loyal. Moreover, due to the young age structure of the population of new immigrant workers, with 51 percent under the age of 30 and two-thirds under the age of 35, older adults have not faced as much competition for positions as do younger adults and teens. “For example, 70 of every 100 new immigrants between the ages of 25-34 were actively participating in the civilian labor force in 2004 versus only 31 of every 100 new immigrants 55 and older.”

Teen employment provides many benefits to the teens and to society at large.

Teen employment is important for a variety of reasons, including the fact that “early work experience begets more work experience.” Youth who work during their teen years are more likely to work as young adults. Early work experience is even more important for those students who are not planning to continue onto post-secondary education immediately upon graduation. National longitudinal evidence reveals that high school senior year work experience has economic payoffs until youth at least reach their mid-20s. Metropolitan areas with high teen employment rates have significantly higher E/P rates for young adults 5 years later.

Employment in school also can have educational benefits for youth. Economically disadvantaged youth, both men and women, who work during high school, are less likely to drop out of school than their non-working peers. In addition, African American males who work between 21-30 hours a week are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college than their peers with no paid work experience. Sum noted that existing research also shows that metropolitan areas with higher rates of employment for teen females are characterized by significantly lower teen pregnancy rates.

Among Sum's recommended policy changes:

Enforce the immigration laws of the nation and require employers to live up to the spirit as well as the letter of the law;

Also see "Native Worker Employment Drops Greatest In High Immigrant States", "Black Unemployment Rate Has Risen During Economic Recovery", "Hispanics Have Taken Bulk Of New Jobs In Last 4 Years", "Immigrant Population Growth Disconnected From American Economic Cycle", and "Immigration Driving Up Native Unemployment".

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 June 02 10:36 AM  Immigration Economics

Rick Darby said at June 2, 2005 2:53 PM:

What could be more foolish than to "import" unskilled workers by the carload (which is what the nudge-and-wink tolerance of illegal immigration amounts to) and then subsidize them through wage earners' taxes, so they can put teenagers and others who want to work out on the street?

Are our lawmakers just weak in the head, or have they been bought and paid for by big business?

John S Bolton said at June 2, 2005 3:57 PM:

Displacing one unskilled population to accomodate another, and on net public subsidy, is deliberate damage to our society. Our officials and their intellectuals want racial and ethnic conflict to increase every year, and will pursue any policy that can be gotten away with, to accomplish such objectives. This after all, is how greater power is obtained.

GUYK said at June 3, 2005 5:28 AM:

Maybe. Most employers are not stupid. They will hire who they think will give them the most production at the least wage. Teenagers that I have hired over the years seldom made me any money. I hired them because there were no other experienced labor available. By the time they were trained sufficiently to work without immediate supervision they had to quit to go back to school.

Few American teenagers will take the backbreaking jobs in agri-business that are performed by the Hispanic laborers. And, few are capable of doing the backbreaking labor! That is probably the reason that so many teens learn to fry potatoes and operate a error free cash register at Micky D's.

Whether we like it or not the American labor force is rapidly pricing themselves out of jobs. Mexican immigrants are willing to give eight hours labor for eight hours of pay. Americans are not willing to do this and form unions so they do not have to do this. Business is in business for one reason and that is profit. No profit, no business.

I am on record as being against illegal immigration from anywhere including Mexico. However, as a retired business owner I know first hand the problems with obtaining and keeping good help. I am one that would hire a qualified and experienced legal immigrant over an inexperienced teenager when the price is the same. It is only good business sense.

If you want to help teenagers get the minimum wage laws changed. It makes no business sense to pay minimum wage to an inexperienced teenager in training. Upping the minimum wage will only increase the problems of teenage unemployment.

D Flinchum said at June 4, 2005 4:40 AM:

GUYK says, "Most employers are not stupid. They will hire who they think will give them the most production at the least wage.....I am one that would hire a qualified and experienced legal immigrant over an inexperienced teenager when the price is the same. It is only good business sense." Everything said here is correct except for the price being the same. The price may be the same for the businessman but that is because he is almost always passing hidden costs on to the community at large, as Rick Darby points out. And, face it, a lot of businessmen are not as scrupulous as GUYK regarding the legal/illegal question.

Most students still live at home when not on campus, and most have insurance coverage through their parents. They are not likely to be using emergency rooms as a free clinic and sending 3 children to local schools.

For argument's sake, let's say the immigrant in question is coming to the US legally for a job under conditions similar to the Secure American and Orderly Immigration Act. He can bring his family with him. If he has 3 school-age children and the going cost of a year of school per student in that area is $7,000, that's possibly more right there than the businessman is paying him for low-skilled work. Let's say he and the missus have another child or one of the family gets injured badly enough to require hospitalization. Unless the business is covering him and his family with insurance, the cost of delivery of the new baby or hospital stay for the injury can be tens of thousands of dollars, which will likely be picked up either by the hospital and doctors themselves or by some government entity.

GUYK, this immigrant may be a wonderful worker, a fine fellow, and a credit to the human race. He may also be cheaper to you as a businessman through his productivity than Kevin, a college guy working for the summer, but only because somebody else is picking up all the extras that his being in the US is costing. This somebody else is the community you live in. Be a citizen and hire Kevin.

If the businesses hiring immigrants were forced to pick up the true costs of bringing immigrants into the US - or more correctly, causing them to come to the US - they would quickly discover that the "jobs Americans won't do" are few and far between.

Proborders said at June 11, 2005 11:36 AM:

GUYK, many fast food workers are Hispanic immigrants.

GUYK, do you think that CEOs of America’s major corporations are paid too much?

brenda said at March 2, 2006 9:14 AM:

i think that we all have te right to work and get payed the same beucase we are doing the same work as the white people and just becuase we dont have papers to legally work i think that that should not matter becuase we all work the same or even harder. i think that everyone that comes her comes because tey want to be somehting in life we all have family and we need to eat so i think that no matter what colar you are that you or were you come from you should get payed the same.we all work for what we want and we want a better life like my dad always says i am here for you guys so that you can be something in life and not be working for small wages putting up with people telling you thing.

liz mark said at May 30, 2007 8:09 PM:

i think it is unfair what they are doing to illegal aliens they work hard they do things that americans dont whant do its really disturbing when they say were taking there job when the reality is americans dont whant to do them it makes no sense to me why do americans whant us out of here without immigrants this country will be nothing whos going to mow your lawns whos going to clean your house cut your apples build your new sonics or mcdonalds it not fair what americans are doing to us wanting to get us out also with teenagers it is not are fault that we are here i was brought here when i was 3 it was my parents decision to bring me here not mine but im am thankfull for them and angry at the same time they brought me here to get a better life i do have a better life i wanna go to coolage study and get my degree and americans are not letting me do it because ther afraid that im taking another american kids collage plans when all they think of collage is to party well not me i wanna study be succesfull but i cant do becuase of social secruity and i whant to so if your anti immigrant please think it over put your self in my shoes even though you dont whant imigane how hard it is for fearing that im going to get caught be the cop and never seeing my fanily again because i will be in a differant country and im also sorry you hate but it is not my fault i am here so theres no reason for you americans to hate me thank you

Kevin said at January 21, 2009 4:06 PM:

As a employed 17 year old and resident of Los Angeles I know first hand what these illegals have caused. I go to Fairfax High School which is part of the LAUSD(Los Angeles Unified School District), and the people at my school 75% hispanic are a reflection of what California's future is going to be like. None of you probably know that 66.6% of kid's that attend LAUSD drop out of high school. With those kid's dropping out it increases violence, stealing. What I'm trying to say is get the illegals out, it is going to ruin our Country! They are not only taking teenagers jobs, they take some adults jobs. They may be cheap and work lots of hours but they are increasing gang violence and other things that this state or Country does not need!

makepeace said at January 18, 2010 1:24 AM:

To Brenda. I realize that you "think" illegals have a "right" to work any damn where they please. We all get that. But the fact is that you are dead freaking wrong. You also probably think that illegals have the "right" to overrun our already overburdened schools, hospitals and social services and basically cop all the freebies they can. That too is criminally incorrect, not to mention feeble minded. Illegals have a "right" to stay the hell home and do their ill-advised propagating there. As for needing to eat, if they are too shiftless to grow their own food, they can follow Jonathon Swift's modest proposal and eat their offspring.

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