Monday, April 4, 2011 | 4:15 p.m.
Nevada had the fifth highest unemployment rate for teenagers during the 12-month period that ended in January, according to an analysis of numbers collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The figure calculated by the Washington, D.C.-based Employment Policies Institute placed the Nevada teen unemployment rate at 32.9 percent. Georgia led the way with a rate of 37.3 percent followed by California, South Carolina and Washington state.
Overall, 25 states had teen unemployment rates that stood above 25 percent throughout 2010, with 1.94 million teens wanting jobs, but not able to find them.
“The statistics are devastating. Research shows that teens without job opportunities are at a higher risk for dropping out of high school or winding up in the criminal justice system,” said Michael Saltsman, a research fellow at the Employment Policies Institute and a former economist with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Nevada’s teen unemployment rate stood at 32.3 in January 2010; 18.7 percent January 2009; 15.4 percent in January 2008; 17.2 percent in January 2007; and 13.5 percent in January 2006, according to Saltsman’s analysis of the numbers.
The unemployment rate for all U.S. workers hovered between 9 and 10 percent throughout much of 2010, while the overall Nevada unemployment rate sat at 14.9 percent for nine consecutive months.
Nationally, teen unemployment stood at 42.1 percent for black teens, 31.9 percent for Hispanics and 21.6 percent for whites, according to the national figures.
An unemployed teen is defined as someone who is seeking work but cannot find a job. That contrasts with a related trend: an increase in the number of teens who have voluntarily stopped looking for work, particularly for summer vacation.
A 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics study attributed much of the latter trend to an increase in the number of students who take summer classes or stay home and study for the coming school year in pursuit of better grades and the opportunity to attend top-notch colleges and universities. That same study also found that a large percentage of teens have simply quit looking for work because of the disheartening job picture created by the two recessions since 2001.
School districts around the country also have altered the beginning and end of their academic years, stretching the school year into June or beginning
classes before Labor Day, making it harder for teens to find work, according to the study.
The ongoing change of the American workplace has also contributed to the change in the teen jobs picture. Some restaurants have eliminated the position long known as a busboy. Self-service checkout at grocery stores has reduced the number of cashier and bagging jobs for youths.
Meantime, the push to raise the minimum wage in states and cities has pushed employers to seek more qualified workers, particularly experienced older workers who lost their jobs to the current recession.
“How many summers are teens going to go through before we see a rebound of these numbers? I don’t know,” Saltsman said.