Teen employment picture cloudy


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As teen unemployment rates continue to plateau above 20 percent, officials say the statistics are misleading.

As of January, teen unemployment rates in the United States reached 20.7 percent, more than three times the national unemployment rate of 6.6 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In Iowa, the teen unemployment rate is approximately 11 percent — more than twice the rate of Iowa’s overall unemployment. But UI junior Nick Brown, who works as a cashier at the IMU Hub, said he isn’t too concerned.

“I’ve never had an issue with finding a job,” he said. “I don’t really see many teens not being able to get a job unless they lack social skills or something.”

UI economics Assistant Professor David Frisvold said there are several factors contributing to teen unemployment that differ from adult unemployment, such as students focusing on school work and an increase of financial-aid resources. He also said motivation is an issue.

“On the supply side, it’s the extent which you are willing to supply your labor into the market, like the idea that teens are ‘too lazy’ to work,” Frisvold said. “And the demand side is focused more on the number of employers willing to hire teens.”

One UI student said her persistence helped her land a job she may have not been fully qualified for.

Junior Jassi Singh, a health and human physiology major, said she faced some difficulties landing a lab-assistant position at the Bowen Science Building due to her lack of work experience in college.

“At first, they were going to hire someone else because I didn’t have any lab or work experience since high school,” Singh said. “But I kept bugging the lab researcher and reaching out to her saying how I was a hard worker, and she finally gave me the job.”

Singh said she didn’t have a hard time finding a job on campus. She found the lab assistant listing on the UI’s Jobnet website, which advertises on- and off-campus job listings within a 30-mile radius of the Iowa City area.

“My issue is always if a student wants to find a job, even if it’s their first time, I think they should be able to as long as they’re being somewhat flexible in what they’re willing to do and receive in pay, and they’re persistent,” said Cynthia Seyfer, the director of student employment in the Financial Aid Office.

Although she thinks motivated teens will find a job, Singh is concerned of the number of teens who are currently unemployed or have never had a job.

“I think a lot of students think they can be the exception, but in reality it’s going to be a lot harder for them to get a job after college,” Singh said. “Working while you’re in school builds skills you won’t learn anywhere else. It’s helped me become more responsible and learn how to prioritize my time.”

On a national level, Frisvold said more research is needed for specific reasons why the teen unemployment rate is high.

“If it’s the case that these are individuals who are looking for a job in their teen years and are not finding work for long periods of time and then it has a permanent effect on their career trajectories, then we should be concerned,” Frisvold said. “But if they aren’t working for short periods of time but complete more schooling, then we shouldn’t be as concerned.”

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