Youth labor force increases

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Youth LaborFrom April to July 2014, the number of employed youth 16 to 24 years old increased by 2.1 million to 20.1 million, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday. This year, 51.9 percent of young people were employed in July, up from 50.7 percent a year earlier.

The month of July typically is the summertime peak in youth employment.

Unemployment among youth rose by 913,000 from April to July 2014, compared with an increase of 692,000 for the same period in 2013. (Because this analysis focuses on the seasonal changes in youth employment and unemployment that occur each spring and summer, the data are not seasonally adjusted.)

Labor force

The youth labor force—16- to 24-year-olds working or actively looking for work—grows sharply between April and July each year. During these months, large numbers of high school and college students search for or take summer jobs, and many graduates enter the labor market to look for or begin permanent employment. This summer, the youth labor force grew by 3.0 million, or 14.5 percent, to a total of 23.4 million in July.

The labor force participation rate for all youth was 60.5 percent in July, the same as the July value in the prior two summers, but above the July low of 59.5 percent in 2011. (The labor force participation rate is the proportion of the population that is working or looking for work.) The summer labor force participation rate of youth had been declining for many years. The July 2014 participation rate was 17.0 percentage points below the peak rate for that month in 1989 (77.5 percent).

The July 2014 labor force participation rate for 16- to 24-year-old men was 63.2 percent, higher than the rate for young women at 57.8 percent. Both rates were about the same as a year earlier.

For several decades prior to 1989, the July labor force participation rate for young men showed no clear trend, ranging from 81 to 86 percent. Since 1989, however, their July participation rate has declined, falling by nearly 20 percentage points. The July labor force participation rate for young women peaked in 1989 at 72.4 percent, following a long-term upward trend; their rate has since fallen by about 15 percentage points.

The youth labor force participation rate was highest for whites, at 63.2 percent in July 2014. By contrast, the rate was 52.9 percent for blacks, 45.8 percent for Asians, and 56.2 percent for Hispanics. For all four groups, labor force participation rates were little different from last July.

Employment

In July 2014, there were 20.1 million employed 16- to 24-year-olds, not much different from the summer before. Between April and July 2014, the number of employed youth rose by 2.1 million. This 11.5 percent increase is typical for this time of year. The employment-population ratio for youth in July 2014—the proportion of the 16- to 24-year-old civilian non-institutional population with a job—was 51.9 percent, up from 50.7 percent the year before.

The employment-population ratios for young men (53.6 percent) and whites (55.4 percent) were higher in July 2014 than a year earlier. The ratios for young women (50.1 percent), blacks (39.8 percent), Asians (40.8 percent), and Hispanics (47.0 percent) showed little change from last July.

In July 2014, 25 percent of employed youth worked in the leisure and hospitality industry (which includes food services), and 19 percent worked in the retail trade industry. These two industries typically account for large shares of summer youth employment.

Unemployment

The number of unemployed youth was 3.4 million in July 2014, down from 3.8 million a year earlier.

The youth unemployment rate was 14.3 percent in July 2014, 2.0 percentage points less than a year before. Among the major demographic groups, July unemployment rates were lower than the prior year for young men (15.1 percent), young women (13.4 percent), whites (12.2 percent), and blacks (24.8 percent), while youth jobless rates changed little for Asians (10.9 percent), and Hispanics (16.5 percent).