How important is it for teens to have summer jobs?

Jun 12, 2014

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As school ends and summer gets underway, the challenge in many Michigan households is teens trying to find a summer job.

The unemployment rate for teens is expected to hit 26.5% this summer, somewhat better than last year's level.

It certainly matters to parents who aren't thrilled about a 17-year-old sitting around all summer playing X-Box. But how much does it matter to Michigan's economy and to the teens?

Charles Ballard is an economist with Michigan State University.

Ballard says teen unemployment has always been higher than adult unemployment, which isn’t surprising, when teens have the least experience and skills.

One thing to remember is that the unemployment rate is the rate of people who are actively seeking work. A lot of teens may have an unpaid internship, studying abroad, participate in athletics, or are in summer school and are not considered unemployed.

Ballard said that the statistics are not always entirely reliable, as they don’t accurately measure those who are earning money in other ways, such as babysitting or yard work.

The state figuring showed about 170,000 teenagers from ages 16-19 will be working, leaving almost 64,000 actively looking teenagers unemployed.

One of the problems that may be keeping teenagers out of the workforce is adults who are taking jobs from teens due to the recession.

Ballard said another reason more teenagers are not working is also because of the different options available for earning money. It does not mean that all those who are considered unemployed are not just twiddling their thumbs.

However, not having a job in your teenage years may have negative effects for some, such as those who dropped out of school and did not work. They would have a harder time finding employment as adults.

Ballard said that he would like to see Michigan try to improve the educational outcome by having a longer school year. Though it may limit the time students have to work in the summer, it will provide them with a better education and skills which they need in order to get some of these jobs.

Ballard added that he will keep making the case for longer school years.

“When we look at all the other developed countries in the world, they have a longer school year than the U.S. And in an awful lot of cases they have much better educational outcomes,” Ballard said. 

*Listen to full interview above. 

-Bre'Anna Tinsley, Michigan Radio Newsroom.