Fewer teens want jobs in school year

Fewer teenagers have jobs or are looking for jobs this year than at any time since researchers started gathering statistics on such things in 1948.

Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that about 33 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds are in the labor force, meaning they are employed or looking for jobs. Thirty years ago, when teen employment was at its peak, almost 60 percent of them were in the labor force.

Conventional cynicism might suggest the trend shows that today's teens are a lazy bunch, distracted, maybe even hypnotized by — or addicted to — video games, Facebook and texting.

The truth is a little more nuanced. Sure, kids might shoulder some responsibility for the historic low. But so do their parents.

The bureau's research indicates that parental emphasis on education and related extracurricular activities and community service are significant factors in the declining percentage of teens employed or looking for work. In other words, kids aren't working because, at least in part, their parents don't want them to be.

The evidence suggests that parents are "more willing to have their kids participate in school instead of in a job," said Teresa Morisi, an economist in the Office of Employment and Unemployment Statistics with the bureau. "Also it suggests that they would substitute volunteer work for paid employment."

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