skip to content
Primary navigation


by Cameron Macht
March 2015

Untapped Potential

Although often lacking experience or more formal education or training, teenagers can be a great source of workers during the summer months, especially as the labor market tightens in Minnesota and across the country. According to 2014 estimates from the Current Population Survey, there were about 138,000 teenagers in Minnesota's labor force, including about 16,000 unemployed teens who were actively seeking work and could quickly fill available jobs.

Despite accounting for just 6.7 percent of the population, teens accounted for twice (13.4%) that amount of the unemployed population. The unemployment rate for Minnesota teens (aged 16 to 19) was higher than for any other age group in the state, and was over three times higher than for any age group over 25 years, creating a large pool of potential workers for employers to tap into (see Table 1).

Table 1. Unemployment Rates by Age Group, 2014
16-19 years 20-24 years 25-34 years 35-44 years 45-54 years 55-64 years 65 years and over
Minnesota 11.4% 6.7% 3.5% 3.1% 3.2% 3.4% 2.7%
United States 19.6% 11.2% 6.5% 4.7% 4.4% 4.3% 4.6%
Source: Current Population Survey, Preliminary 2014 Data on Employment Status by State and Demographic Group

After hanging around 8 percent in the early 2000s, the unemployment rate for teenagers in Minnesota surged above 20 percent in the depths of the recession from 2009 to 2011 before slowly creeping back down during the recovery. Minnesota's 11.4 percent unemployment rate for teenagers in 2014 was the sixth lowest in the nation, behind Montana, Utah, North and South Dakota, and Nebraska.

Map showing unemployment rates for teens across the U.S.

While unemployment rates for teenagers were rising in much of the last decade, labor force participation rates were falling. Nationwide, only about one in every three teenagers is now in the labor force. In Minnesota nearly half (48.5%) of teenagers are employed or actively seeking work. As such, Minnesota has the seventh highest teenage labor force participation rate in the United States, led by other Midwestern states. In a tight labor market, employers may benefit by tapping into teens.

back to top