Add to the list yet another reason why President Obama’s assertion last week that “the private sector is doing fine” is woefully out of touch with what's happening in America.
Fewer than three in 10 American teenagers now hold jobs such as running cash registers, mowing lawns or busing restaurant tables from June to August. The decline has been particularly sharp since 2000, with employment for 16-to-19-year olds falling to the lowest level since World War II.
And the statistics for minority, low-income teens are even grimmer. Blacks, Hispanics and teens in lower-income families were least likely to be employed in summer jobs.
Hispanics in families making less than $40,000 faced difficulties (19 percent employed), while middle-class black teens with family income of $75,000-$100,000 did moderately better, at 28 percent employed. For African-American teens whose family income was less than $40,000 a year, 14 percent are employed, compared to 44 percent of white teens with family income of $100,000-$150,000.
Teen employment may never return to pre-recession levels, suggests a projection by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In fairness, many teenagers will no doubt spend their entire summer in school, attending camps, or on vacation. But what about the millions of Americans who want – or, in some cases, need -- a summer job? The unemployment statistics are sobering, to put it mildly. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, as noted in the article, more than 44 percent of teenagers who want summer jobs can’t get hired or are forced to work fewer hours than they prefer. Further, just 29.6 percent of 16-to-19 year olds secured a job last summer. This is appalling. Not only are young Americans feeling the painful effects of this administration’s failed economic policies, but they’re vying for positions in an ever-shrinking and increasingly competitive labor market.
Older workers, immigrants and debt-laden college graduates are taking away lower-skill work as they struggle to find their own jobs in the weak economy. Upper-income white teens are three times as likely to have summer jobs as poor black teens, sometimes capitalizing on their parents' social networks for help.
“The free enterprise system does not leave people behind,” Senator Marco Rubio reminded conservatives during a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and library last August. “People are poor and people are left behind because they do not have access to the free enterprise system.” This truism, for some reason, has always stuck with me. Indeed, I believe one of the greatest challenges of our time is creating an opportunity society where all Americans -- regardless of race, class, gender or age -- can excel and pursue their dreams. But for now, we desperately need a new president in the White House who understands how to grow the economy and create jobs -- after all, millions of American teenagers are counting on it.