2013-01-03 / Top News

Nearly 2/3 of North Dakota youth are working

In a national climate where employment among young people in the U.S. is at the lowest level since World War II, nearly two-thirds of teens and young adults in North Dakota are employed, which is the highest proportion in the nation.

North Dakota leads the nation in the growth of gross domestic product and per capita income and has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation. These economic indicators are reflective of an economic shift that is bringing prosperity to the state and providing opportunities for many, including youth. In 2011, 63 percent of the people in North Dakota ages 16 to 24 had jobs. Nationally, 46 percent of teens and young adults were working.

“However, not all North Dakota youth are actively engaged,” says Karen Olsonwith the North Dakota KIDS COUNT program at North Dakota State University.

“Approximately 10,000 teens and young adults in the state are not in school and are jobless. This amounts to about 11 percent of all people ages 16 to 24.

Many of these young people face numerous obstacles, according to “Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity” from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Often described as disconnected youth, they encounter greater competition from older workers for increasingly scarce entry-level jobs, especially in light of the recession. They also lack the higher skill-set required for the well-paying jobs that are available. They often don’t graduate from high school on time or are not ready for college, which further decreases their employment options. Many contend with hurdles beyond their control, such as growing up in poverty, having few working adults as role models, attending low-performing schools or living with a single parent.

The lack of education, opportunity and connection to school or work has long-term implications for disconnected youth, the report shows. They may become adults unable to achieve financial stability and without employment prospects. They can present a significant cost to taxpayers because the government spends more to support them. In addition, 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 youth and work report presents state-by-state data and highlights how these issues are exacerbated among youth from low-income families and among minority populations. Among black and Hispanic teens (ages 16 to 19), 16 percent are out of school and work, compared with the national average of 13 percent. Similarly, 29 percent of black young adults (ages 20 through 24) and 23 percent of their Hispanic peers are disconnected, which exceeds the nation’s 20 percent average.

Teens that are employed also varies widely among states, from 18 percent in California and Florida to 46 percent in North Dakota in 2011.

“While North Dakota has the highest proportion of working teens ages 16 to 19 in the nation at 46 percent, this ratio is down from 57 percent in 2000,” Olson says. “North Dakota also has the highest proportion of young adults who are employed. In 2011, 75 percent of people ages 20 to 24 in North Dakota were employed, a proportion that has changed little since 2000.”

The report emphasizes the need to provide multiple, flexible pathways to success for disconnected young people and find ways to re-engage high school dropouts. The Workforce Investment Act Youth Employment and Training Program administered by Job Service North Dakota, provides eligible youth with a broad range of year-round coordinated services. These services cover areas such as academic and occupational learning, leadership skill development, preparation for further education and additional training, including work experience opportunities. The ultimate goal of these programs is to help North Dakota youth find employment.

The youth and work report 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.

Its major recommendations include:

• Anational youth employment strategy developed by policymakers that streamlines systems and makes financial aid, funding and other support services more accessible and flexible. The strategy would encourage more businesses to hire young people and focus on results, not process.

• Aligning resources within communities and among public and private funders to create collaborative efforts to support youth.

• To explore new ways to create jobs through social enterprises such as Goodwill and microenterprises through 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.

“No one sector or system can solve this problem alone,” says Patrice Cromwell, director of economic development at the Casey Foundation. “It demands a collective and collaborative effort. 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.”

The youth and work report includes the latest youth employment data for every state, District of Columbia and nation. Additional information on disconnected youth and young adults is available in the KIDS COUNT Data Center, which also contains the most recent national, state and local data on hundreds of indicators of child wellbeing. The center allows users to create rankings, maps and graphs for use in publications and on websites, and to view real-time information on mobile devices.

For more information, visit www.ndkidscount.org.

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