MAY JOBS: Too Few Young Workers Jumping into the Labor Pool


June 5, 2015

(ATLANTA, GA) – The May jobs report released this morning continues to show too few young Americans joining the workforce, said the business leaders who make up the Job Creators Network. They note that proposals to radically hike the minimum wage will only increase the cost of hiring the young.

“Before the Great Recession the May 2007 jobs report showed nearly 7 million teenagers in the labor force, but today we have fewer than 6 million,” said Stephen Bienko of College Hunks Hauling Junk, a member of the Job Creators Network. “The participation rate for teen workers is falling faster than workers as a whole, and that means a less experienced and less employable labor force for tomorrow.”

The labor force participation rate measures the percentage of working age adults holding a job or looking for work. For all workers it had remained at 66 percent or higher for most of the two decades prior to the 2008-2009 recession, but it has fallen to 63 percent or less during the recent year, meaning millions of extra adults are not looking for work but not counted in the official statistics. While some attribute the decline to an aging workforce, the drop-off has been even more severe for young workers, ages 16-19, falling six percentage points, from 41 percent in May of 2007 to 35 percent in May 2015.

“Young workers needing first job experience are more likely to be minimum wage workers,” continued Bienko. “We shouldn’t make it more expensive to hire and train tomorrow’s workers today.”

 According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), minimum wage workers comprise less than four percent of the hourly workforce, nearly half are under the age of 25, and nearly one in four have not yet graduated from high school.

“Economic growth is sluggish because the labor pool of workers who make it grow is shrinking,” concluded Bienko. “The last thing we need is policies that make it harder for young workers to jump in the pool.”

Last week the U.S. Commerce Department revealed the U.S. economy shrank by 0.7 percent during the first three months of the year, the third time in six years the economy got stuck in reverse. This morning the BLS released the May employment report, showing 280,000 jobs created and an unemployment rate of 5.5 percent.