Youth Employment Plummets in North Carolina

(Raleigh, NC)-An entire generation of young Tar Heels is aging with limited work experience and without the knowledge and job-readiness skills North Carolina employers need to compete in the 21st century, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.   

Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity, explores the obstacles that have pushed many young people out of the labor force since the economic downturn.  In 2011, nearly 6.5 million U.S. teens and young adults ages 16 to 24 were disconnected (not enrolled in school while also unemployed). In North Carolina, 21 percent of teens and young adults, about one in every five young people ages 16 to 24, were disconnected.

“Far too many of our young people are not in school, not working, and have few employment prospects placing them at risk of chronic underemployment and reduced financial stability later in life,” said Deborah Bryan, President & CEO of Action for Children North Carolina. “The potential economic and social cost of youths’ lack of access to employment extends well beyond the lives of those young people affected; it undermines our state’s ability to achieve a prosperous future.”

The report finds U.S. youth employment at the lowest level since World War II. Nationally, only half of young people ages 16 to 24 held jobs in 2011, compared to 60 percent in 2000.  In North Carolina, only 41 percent of young people were employed last year, compared to 60 percent in 2000.

As older workers were displaced during the recession, competition for the entry-level jobs that younger workers depend on to start their careers increased.  Many of those positions were offered to older workers with more experience and credentials, leaving younger workers without the chance to build the job-readiness skills that come from holding part-time and starter jobs.

The lack of education, opportunity and connection to school or work has long-term implications for disconnected youth; they may become adults unable to achieve financial stability. When young people have no connection to school or jobs, government spends more to support them. Additionally, the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey shows more than 20 percent, or 1.4 million of these youths, have children of their own, which means their inability to find work and build careers can perpetuate an intergenerational cycle of poverty.

The report emphasizes the need to provide multiple, flexible pathways to success for disconnected young people and find ways to reengage high school dropouts. It also advocates creating opportunities for youth in school or other public systems that allow them to gain early job experience through such avenues as community service, internships and summer and part-time work.

“No one sector or system can solve this problem alone – it demands a collective and collaborative effort,” said Patrice Cromwell, director of economic development at the Casey Foundation. “Businesses, government, philanthropy and communities must work together with young people to help them develop the skills and experience they need to achieve long-term success and financial stability as adults.”

Recommendations from the report include:

  • A national youth employment strategy developed by policymakers that streamlines systems and makes financial aid, funding and other support services more accessible and flexible; encourages more businesses to hire young people; and focuses on results, not process.
  • Aligning resources within communities and among public and private funders to create collaborative efforts to support youth.
  • Exploring new ways to create jobs through social enterprises such as Goodwill and microenterprises, with the support of public and private investors.
  • Employer-sponsored earn-and-learn programs that foster the talent and skills that businesses require – and develop the types of employees they need.

To view Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity visit: