Labor Secretary Cheers Youth Unemployment Rate of 17.1 Percent

August 23, 2012 - 12:59 PM
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis oversaw the signing Monday of agreements with Honduras, Peru, Ecuador and the Philippines to protect the rights of migrant workers in the U.S. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – Labor Secretary Hilda Solis cheered a slight decline in the youth (16-24) unemployment rate, saying that it was a sign that the job market was improving for America’s young people.

“As young Americans all across the country prepare to head into a new school year, I'm excited to say that many more will take with them lessons learned through summer jobs,” Solis said Wednesday in a press release.

“It's no secret that the effects of the 2007 recession had a significant impact on job prospects for youth, but today's report showed positive signs that job prospects for young people picked up pace in 2012,” she said.

Solis’ statement marked the release of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual youth unemployment report. Solis said that the report showed positive signs for young job seekers, noting that the youth unemployment rate had fallen to 17.1 percent over the past two years.

“Yesterday's report shows that youth employment rose by 2.1 million between April and July 2012, with 19.5 million young people employed last month. That's up from 18.6 million a year ago,” Solis said.

“The youth unemployment rate showed a significant decline, falling to 17.1 percent — down a percentage point from last year and two points from 2010. Meanwhile, the share of young people employed in July 2012 climbed back up to 50.2 percent from its historic low last year,” she added.

However, the youth unemployment report Solis cited only covers April to July, when youth employment swells as summer job seekers fill hospitality and food service jobs.

The same report found that the number of unemployed youth during this time period was 4 million, a number BLS said was “little changed” from last year’s figure of 4.1 million.

The report also underscored the fact that the youth unemployment rate actually increased from April to July, rising from 15.4 percent to 17.1 percent.

Her comments also leave out the fact that the number of unemployed youths hasn’t changed much, meaning that other factors besides a better labor market are behind the decline in the unemployment rate.

In fact, youth employment in July is little changed since President Barack Obama took office. In July 2009, 19.3 million young Americans were employed. In 2012, that number had risen by just 0.2 points to 19.5 million.

Another significant factor left out of Secretary Solis’ analysis is the shrinking labor force among 16-24-year-old Americans. In July 2009, 23.7 million young Americans were in the labor force – a number that declined to 22.7 million in 2011 and remained at pre-Obama levels in 2012, when 23.5 million young Americans were in the labor force.

Even more striking is the growth of young Americans that have dropped out of the labor force. In July 2009, 13.9 million young Americans were not in the labor force. By July 2012, that number had risen to 15.3 million.

Despite the fact that the summer-jobs market continued to reflect the overall poor recovery, Solis still cheered the administration’s efforts to promote youth employment.

“By teaming up with committed businesses, nonprofits and cities around the country, this effort provided more than 300,000 summer job opportunities for low-income and disadvantaged youth, including more than 100,000 paid positions. Together we're helping young people across the country realize that there's no substitute for the real-world experience of work and no replacement for the dignity that comes with earning your first paycheck,” she said.