Employment among young American adults has plunged to levels not seen since the 1950s, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. This means “youth are veering toward chronic unemployment as adults and failing to gain the skills employers need in the 21st century.” The Kids Count Youth and Work report continues:

Forty years ago, a teenager leaving high school — with or without a diploma — could find a job in a local factory. Twenty years ago, even as manufacturing jobs moved offshore, young people could still gain a foothold in the workforce through neighborhood stores and restaurants. Amid the housing boom of the past decade, youth with some training could find a career track in the construction field. but today  — with millions of jobs lost and experienced workers scrambling for every available position — America’s young people stand last in line for jobs.

Youth employment is at its lowest level since World War II; only about half of young people ages 16 to 24 held jobs in 2011.Among the teens in that group, only 1 in 4 is now employed, compared to  46 percent in 2000.

Overall, 6.5 million people ages 16 to 24 are both out of school and out of work, statistics that suggest dire consequences for financial stability and employment prospects in that population. (PDF, pp. 1-2)

States with the highest youth employment rates are:

  • Teen rate (16-19 year-olds): North Dakota, 46 percent

  • Youth rate (20-24 year-olds): North Dakota, 75 percent

States with the lowest youth employment rates are:

  • Teen rate (16-19 year-olds): California, 18 percent (D.C., 14 percent)

  • Youth rate (20-24 year-olds): Mississippi, 51 percent.

(See table 1)

Flexible education and training programs, along with funding that follows students to the programs and schools that work best is a needed first step.