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Willing and Able: Teens Ready to Work

northwest-minnesota-mapMay 13, 2015 - As schools begin to let students out for the summer and business continue to post "help wanted" signs for workers, teenagers have many opportunities to earn money, learn work ethic, and gain experience through summer employment.

Teenagers provide a welcome bump in the available labor force across Minnesota, especially since Minnesota's unemployment rate lingering below 4 percent for several months has left employers with fewer available workers to choose from. According to the most recent Job Vacancy Survey results, employers in the region reported thousands of jobs that require a high school diploma or less. The good news is that Minnesota has the seventh-highest labor force participation rate for teenagers in the country, at 48.5 percent (compared to about 33 percent nationally, according to the American Community Survey).

The labor force participation rate was even higher for teens in Northwest Minnesota, where almost 56 percent of people aged 16-19 were in the labor force over the last 5 years. That translates to over 17,300 teenaged workers, or about 6 percent of the total regional labor force. Teenage labor force participation rates ranged from a low of 30.9 percent in Norman County to a high of 67.2 percent in Douglas County (home to Alexandria and its new high school). In 20 of the 26 counties in the region, more than half of teens participate in the labor force (see Map 1).

Labor force participation rate, 16 - 19 year olds

Not surprisingly, teens are most likely to work in the accommodation and food services and retail trade industries, which together account for over two-thirds of jobs held by teenagers. Data shows that teens also find jobs in other industries, such as: health care and social assistance, which includes child day care services and nursing and residential care facilities; other services, which includes personal care, pet care, civic and social organizations, and repair and maintenance; arts, entertainment and recreation, which includes amusement parks, golf courses, and sports teams; and public administration, which includes local government services.

"Prospects for teenagers finding jobs this summer are better than in recent years, primarily because of an improving economy and tighter labor market," said Oriane Casale of DEED's Labor Market Information Office. "With strong employment growth in both the retail and the accommodation and food service sectors in March, this might be a great summer for teens in Minnesota to get some work experience and earn their first paychecks."

Of the 17,300 teenaged workers in Northwest Minnesota, about 2,800 were considered unemployed and actively seeking work. That means teens in Northwest Minnesota had an unemployment rate of 16 percent in 2013, which was about two and half times higher than the unemployment rate for the total population. Unemployment rates were lowest for workers between 25 and 54 years of age. While teen rates may seem high in comparison, the state's 11.3 percent unemployment rate for teens was the sixth lowest nationally in 2014. The new figures are an improvement from teen jobless rates that surged to more than 20 percent during the recession.

Five counties in Northwest Minnesota had teen unemployment rates below 10 percent: Lake of the Woods (3.1 percent), Traverse (8.5 percent), Kittson (9.1 percent), Roseau (9.6 percent), and Wilkin County (9.8 percent), which are all primarily rural areas. Counties that are home to major colleges and universities - Beltrami (28.2 percent), Stevens (27.6 percent), and Polk (19.5 percent) - had the highest jobless rates for teens (see Map 2). Employers in these counties may have an easier time recruiting teenagers to fill their jobs this summer.

Unemployment rate, 16 - 19 year olds

DEED offers services and programs to help teens find work. The agency's MinnesotaWorks.net job bank lists nearly 84,000 jobs, many of them suitable for teenagers. Job opportunities also are available through DEED's youth employment, training and education programs.

For More Information

Contact Chet Bodin at 218-825-2183.

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