Summer Bummer: Teen Unemployment Rate Soars

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT) – Summer is here, but for many teens who are now out of school, the summer jobs are not.

New numbers show that many young people across the country remain jobless, with some economists predicting the worst summer for teenage unemployment in decades.

According to the Employment Policy Institute, roughly one in four U.S. teens have no place to work right now, matching the worst national rate since World War Two. It’s not much better in Alabama either. The state currently has a 21 percent teen unemployment rate, four points higher than the same time one year ago.

Analysts said the trend is due to a still-sluggish economy in which older people and 20-somethings are now competing with teens for low-level jobs. They also said teens have also been hurt by the raising of minimum wage, leaving fewer positions open for everybody. Those who have found work say they consider themselves lucky.

“You know, a 16-year-old needs to be able to drive around, so get a job,” said Jamie Bailey, who landed a summer gig at Southern Adventures amusement park in Huntsville. “I have a lot of friends that don’t have jobs… my best friend has been all over. Shoe stores, the mall, Wal-Mart, everywhere, and just can’t find one.”

Employers said they’ve had to reduce the number of positions traditionally given to teenage workers due to the weak economy. Southern Adventures General Manager Steve Wales said his business has reduced its roster by 10 positions in the last few years.

“With the economy being down we actually have hired less this year than in years past,” said Wales. “Seemed like most of our applicants this year were older. A lot of college kids, when used to be all we ever saw was high-schoolers.”

The EPI said South Carolina, Georgia and California all have teen unemployment rates of thirty percent or higher. The organization said this is the fifth straight summer the national teen unemployment rate has topped 20 percent.