By Luke Greiner~


Summertime employment provides youth with not only a break from school, but also a chance to make money, gain workplace knowledge, and lay the building blocks of a successful future.

As the unemployment rate continues to decline, teenage workers also provide a much needed boost in available labor for employers. In fact, Minnesota has the seventh-highest labor force participation rate for 16 to 19 year-olds in the U.S., at 48.5% in 2014.


In Central Minnesota, the teenage labor force participation rate was well above the state’s rate, with 55% of teenagers in the 13-county region working or actively seeking work. These teenagers provide Central Minnesota with almost 21,500 workers, or about 6% of the total workforce.

At 61%, Benton County has the highest share of teenagers participating in the labor force in the region, while Renville has the lowest rate, with less than 45%. Chisago (45.7%), Sherburne (48.9%), Mille Lacs (49.2%), and Pine (49.3%) also ranked low.

The recession was particularly cruel to teenage workers. Unemployment rates jumped up over 20% during this time. They continue to be more than twice as high as the rate for all workers.

While this might sound like a crisis, Minnesota actually has the sixth lowest unemployment rate for teens in the country, at 11.3% in 2014. In Central Minnesota, 17.5% of 16 to 19 year olds were unemployed, according to Census data from 2013. These teenagers accounted for about 3,750 unemployed job seekers through 2013.

Where do our youth in Central Minnesota end up working?

It may be surprising to hear that almost one in every ten jobs in Central Minnesota are filled by a worker between 14 and 21 years old. About 70% of these workers end up in three pretty obvious industry sectors: accommodation and food service, retail trade, and health care and social assistance.

While the overall economy regained the jobs lost during the 2012 recession, there were still 3,290 fewer jobs filled by workers aged 14 to 21 years old.  This is apparent in the second quarter of 2014 as compared to the second quarter of 2006 (see the chart below).

Employment of Youth Workers

As the unemployment rate continues declining, and competition for labor heats up. Young workers can provide a much needed relief for businesses looking to expand in Central Minnesota. From internships to mentorships, businesses should embrace a new wave of workers entering the labor force.

For more information about Central Minnesota, contact Luke Greiner at 320-308-5378.


Luke Greiner is the Central & Southwest Regional Analyst for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Featured image courtesy of the RCPL under Creative Commons 2.0.

Teen Worker” courtesy of taliesin under the MorgueFile license.