Job Outlook for Minnesota Teens

by Nicholas Dobbins

In recent years, young Minnesotans looking for summer jobs have faced significant challenges. Today, the economies of both Minnesota and the United States are slowly recovering, and labor markets are improving along with them. Minnesota’s overall unemployment rate has been declining, and we have nearly matched our pre-recession job total. Some of these improvements will benefit teen job seekers.


Most teens don’t work full-time and aren’t dependent on their earnings from part-time employment. Still, they are counted as “unemployed” if they are able to work, actively seeking employment, and unable to find it. Unemployment rates are much higher for teens than for the workforce at large. At the end of 2012, 18.6 percent of Minnesotans ages 16 to 19 were unemployed, compared to 5.8 percent for the entire workforce in the state. One encouraging sign is that the annual average teen unemployment rate in Minnesota actually decreased from 2011 to 2012. That marks the first such improvement since unemployment spiked in 2009.


While Minnesota tends to outperform the nation for teen employment, one area where  we lag is in the racial employment gap. Like the adult workforce, teens from racial minority groups in Minnesota have disproportionately low employment and labor force participation rates compared to the population as a whole. In 2012, the state average unemployment rate for all teens was 19.1 percent, while it was 24.2 percent for Hispanic teens and a whopping 32.2 percent for black teens.


While teen workers in Minnesota take summer jobs across every industry, they tend to be concentrated in a handful of sectors, including accommodation and food services and retail trade. Forecasts for all major industries that employ teen workers show positive growth between 2012 and 2013. This bodes well for teens looking to enter the workforce this summer.


Minnesota is still recovering from the effects of the recession, and difficult job markets historically hit teens harder than the market at large. And, longer-term, the trend appears to be toward decreased employment for teens. It follows that we may not see the same recovery in teen employment that we have begun seeing in the labor force as a whole. However, there does appear to be stabilization or improvement in some important indicators, including total employment numbers in key industries. All this suggests that while the teen summer job market isn’t likely to see a dramatic improvement this year, it could be marginally easier for teens to find work than it was last summer.


This article first appeared in the April 2013 issue of Minnesota Economic Review.


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