Recession Squeezing Job Market for Students

The ongoing recession has severely shrunk the job market for high school students, The Washington Times reports. As many sectors of the country continue to experience crippling unemployment, jobs that have traditionally served as an entry into employment for young people, such as at fast food places and big-box retailers, have become employers of last resort for their parents instead, leaving kids out in the cold. Since 1990, the number of kids with after school jobs nearly halved, with most of the decline taking place in the last ten years.

“By definition, teenage workers get the jobs that are left over,” said Charles Hirschman, a sociology professor at the University of Washington who has studied and written about student employment. “When you can’t find someone else to bag your groceries or work construction, often teenagers are the labor force you can count on to pick up that slack for a low wage. But now, with the recession, everybody has moved down. Those jobs aren’t going to teenagers.”

One of the formerly reliable employers of high school students, McDonald’s now has its pick of more educated and more experienced workers instead. The McD’s store managers don’t want to settle for employees with limited available hours and no flexibility when they can, for the same price, hire college graduates and other out of work adults.

“By definition, teenage workers get the jobs that are left over,” said Charles Hirschman, a sociology professor at the University of Washington who has studied and written about student employment. “When you can’t find someone else to bag your groceries or work construction, often teenagers are the labor force you can count on to pick up that slack for a low wage. But now, with the recession, everybody has moved down. Those jobs aren’t going to teenagers.”

High schoolers aren’t the only ones losing out when competing against older candidates. College students have also increasingly found themselves struggling to land jobs that typically help those unable to cover tuition to pay their bills. In 2000, more than half of students enrolled in college full time also maintained at least part-time employment. Last year, only 40% were similarly situated, according to the data reported by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Analysts believe that the data doesn’t show that the young generation are less interested in employment, but that the opportunities for a job that leaves room for study just aren’t there.

“Adolescents, like everybody else, like to spend money. If they have opportunities to work, even if it’s at a local fast-food place, a lot of students would still do that so they can afford to buy new music and new clothes,” Mr. Hirschman said.

Wednesday
05 30, 2012
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