NASHVILLE - According to a report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the number of employed young people fell to its lowest level in 50 years in 2011.
Linda O'Neal, director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, says the past decade has been the most challenging for young people, and here at home, the effects are great.
"It has an adverse impact on high school and college students who are trying to raise funds for their education, and also has a negative impact on young people who are not college bound and need to be developing a strong attachment to the workforce."
Fewer than one in four Tennesseans ages 16 to 19 were working in 2011. Only nine other states had a smaller percentage of youth in this age group employed. For members of minority groups, the national percentage of employed dropped by about half from 2000 to 2011.
The report found that youth who miss out on early work experience will likely ensure later unemployment and be less likely to achieve higher levels of career attainment. O'Neal says the job market for youth already is saturated.
"The impact of the current recession has been devastating on many people, and it has been especially problematic for young people because as there are more older workers who have lost their jobs, they are filling positions that were formerly the starter jobs for young people."
This generation is essentially cut off from the normal flow of economic progress at a pivotal point in their lives, O'Neal says, noting that leaders need to pay attention to the report and take action.
"The report also focuses on the importance of us as a country really developing a national youth employment strategy: such things as employer-sponsored earn-and-learn programs and other ways that help young people develop the talent and skills that businesses require."
The report calls on businesses, governments and communities to come together to create opportunities to put young people back on track in a dynamic, advancing economy to ensure their success and to build a stronger workforce for the future.
The complete report is available online at www.aecf.org.