Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Learning on the job
In our view
One of the most corrosive effects of America's economic malaise is the toll it takes on teenagers seeking their first jobs.
Five years after the economy nearly melted down, an army of experienced but downsized adults, desperate to have a job, any job, has crowded teens from jobs they used to be able to get.
Even the traditional summer job is a tough prospect these days. Fewer than one-third of teenagers had summer jobs in 2011. A decade before, the figure was over 50 percent. This summer is predicted to be about like last.
Lamentably but predictably, the figures are much worse for black or Hispanic teens, who have jobs at a rate of about 1 in 10.
This is troubling in many ways. There are now people in their 20s who have never held a job, who have no work experience to tout when they seek a job and who lack the most basic acquaintance with the protocol of a workplace.
They are behind where they should be. And eventually our nation could feel the drag. Even in a new economy where more and more people make money from their home computers than from cubicles, offices and construction sites and factories will exist, and they will need workers who know how to work.
There are other likely consequences. According to a study cited by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, young people in low- to middle-income families who don't work "are more likely to drop out of high school, the girls are more likely to become teenage mothers and the boys have a higher likelihood for delinquency."
The jobs that young people once got never were high-end. But sometimes the character-building quality of simply having a job, an income, a participation in the give-and-take of the workplace was the best education a teenager could get in a few months.
Fewer than one-third of teenagers had summer jobs in 2011. A decade before, the figure was over 50 percent.