If you’re hobnobbing on Martha’s Vineyard this weekend and stop in for seafood at Nancy’s, your order might be taken by Natasha, also known as Sasha Obama.
The fifteen-year-old First Daughter has been learning the ropes at the Obama Family vacation favorite. For a few days she’s been busing tables, working the cash register, and prepping the restaurant for lunch patrons, according the Boston Herald.
Donning a blue tee-shirt, cap, and khakis, you might think Sasha fits in with the other normal teen workers – what her parents desire. Except, parked across the street is a black SUV with half a dozen Secret Service agents and there are probably some undercover agents milling about the restaurant as well.
Giving Sasha a normal teen experience is the right motivation. However, it’s no longer the norm for many Americans teenagers to be able to find a job over the summer, as the latest July jobs numbers demonstrate.
Overall, the jobs report that came out today has positive numbers. Indeed, a former White House chief economist and adviser to Senator John McCain , Douglas Holtz-Eakin, says that the numbers are looking great:
"We have rarely gotten a report that didn't have some hole, like you get jobs but there's no wage growth, or the labor forces declines and the unemployment goes down for the wrong reason," said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who served under President George W. Bush.
"This is strong across the board. I don't think there's a bad number in here," he told CNBC's "Squawk Box."
The report is promising, but the labor participation rate is still at historic lows, 7.8 million people are still unemployed, and youth unemployment is double –even triple– the national average, many American families see uncertainty and might disagree.
The unemployment rate for U.S. teens is 15.6 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and that was little changed from the prior month. This is just one demographic that has seen unemployment stall out in July. Overall, unemployment was unchanged at 4.9 percent in July and the labor force participation rate ticked up a smidgen. Hourly wages even rose by 8 cents, but an annualized gain of 2.6 percent in earnings isn’t much to retire on or buy a house with.
When we look at those without a job and those who have a part-time job but really want to work full time (or underemployment), the unemployment rate doubles to 9.7 percent. Youth unemployment and underemployment for 18-29 year olds, for example, was 12.6 percent, according to analysis by Generation Opportunity (GO). (In full disclosure: I work for GO).
As a black teen, I grew up in a working-class family which valued summer work (like the Obamas). However, my parents didn’t have wealthy donor to call up for a favor; I had to pound the pavement, work with the guidance office in high school, and apply wherever might take me. I landed internships every summer, working at a private library, investment firms, optometrist’s office, and an intellectual property law firm. The skills I gained were invaluable, but learning what I did not want to do was even more critical.
One-size-fits-all solutions such as ObamaCare, minimum wage increases, overtime rule changes, and over-regulation are robbing our economy of first jobs and summer jobs for teens by making young, inexperienced workers expensive to hire and retain. Companies make trade-offs in the face of regulations imposed on them, but it’s those who need opportunity the most that suffer.
Sasha and her sister will undoubtedly get many more job opportunities, but for too many teens that first summer job will remain a summer dream.