The American job market is no place for students as the number of employed high schoolers has hit its lowest level in more than 20 years, according to new figures from the National Center for Education Statistics.
In 1990, 32 percent of high school students held jobs, versus just 16 percent now. Blame their elders.
Sectors that traditionally have offered teens their first paying gig — fast-food chains, movie theaters, malls and big-box retailers — have now become the last resorts for out-of-work college graduates or older Americans forced back into the labor force out of sheer financial necessity. The resulting squeeze has left students on the outside looking in.
The recession and an increasing focus on school can be blamed for the high teen unemployment rate. It’s important to make good grades a priority, but lack of work experience can make it harder to find a job after college graduation.
In the long run, the trend could produce more and more young adults who lack the basic skills, such as how to interact with a customer, gained while working early in life. The longer a young person goes without a job, Mr. Sum said, the less attractive he or she looks to employers.
“There’s only one way you can learn how to work — you’ve got to work,” he said.