Noel Sheppard has a good column over on Newsbusters today regarding a little-reported statistic that has some bearing on the recent immigration debate. We hear every day that illegal immigrants are “doing jobs Americans won’t do.” However, Noel asks us to take a look at the rate of teenage employment over the past 30 years.
What are the numbers? Well, in February of this year, only 34.5 percent of people aged sixteen through nineteen were employed. Now, this doesn’t mean the unemployment rate in this demographic was 65.5 percent. Instead, the problem is that only 41 percent of folks this age were considered part of the workforce.
Ergo, 59 percent weren’t.
From a historical perspective, this percentage of teenagers out of the workforce is close to the highest rate since the Labor Department started keeping such statistics in 1948. By contrast, in February 1979, only 47 percent of teenagers were out of the workforce. And, at that time, 44 percent of the teenaged population over the age of fifteen had jobs.
And a bit later:
If you speak to any small business owner in America today, you will certainly get a different rationale for hiring Mexicans than the cheap wage benefit being ascribed by the so-called experts on the subject. Quite the contrary, all of the restaurant owners in my town say they hire Mexicans because they are hard-working, devoted, and dependable.
By contrast, these same business owners complain about teenagers and younger employees that won’t work eight hour days or 40 hours a week, are regularly late, miss a lot of days due to supposed illness, and seem to always be on a break.
Should we begrudge employers that want to hire people who actually want to work? And, maybe more important, do we really want to consider penalizing small business owners for hiring such folks by fining them if they do?
Something to consider before you quickly answer this question is that increasing numbers of young adults are moving back home to live with their parents for a variety of reasons. Is this poor work ethic developed in the late teens the cause of the problem? Are we as a nation doing a lousy job making young adults responsible employees capable of providing for themselves?