Megan Lynch @MLynchOnAir

St. Louis, Mo. (KMOX) – Young people are having a harder time getting started in the workforce and a new study warns that could hamper the national economy.

Many people have felt the pain of a shrinking job market over the last decade and a half, but this latest report from the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program contends young people — and teenagers especially — have had it worse.

Take St. Louis for example.  In 2000 nearly half of all 16-19 year olds were working.  By 2012, only a third had jobs.  That’s still better than major metros like Atlanta, New York and LA where less than 20-percent of young people that age are employed.  The top metro for working teens is Ogden, Utah with a 43 percent employment rate.   However to put it in perspective, Ogden suffered a slightly worse drop in employment among 16 to 19 year olds from 2000 to 2012 (Ogden -19%, St. Louis -16%).

Another concern for the report’s authors is an indication that people lacking job experience in their teens are finding it harder to get work or establish a career path as they reach their twenties.  The study suggests that could hamstring economic growth in the nation.

In 2000 the St. Louis area ranked in the top third of major metros for employment of 20 to 24 year olds (72% employment).  Now the bi-state has dropped to the middle of the pack with 65-percent of people in their early twenties employed.   That compares to a market like Madison, Wisconsin where 75-percent of 20-24 year olds have work.  Among the worst markets for young adults with employment hovering around 50-percent:  Syracuse, NY;  Tucson, AZ;  Fresno, CA: and New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA.

The report points out, kids who come from poorer families, have less education, or are black or hispanic have an even tougher time getting work.

The Brookings study makes a number of recommendations including offering high school students a more structured introduction to college work; putting more emphasis on technical education for teens not entering college; providing more opportunities for high school drop-outs to earn diplomas or GED’s and gain occupational training; and tailoring career-focused training to the industry needs of a region.



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