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A Time for work

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Vital City, June 2023

The end of the school year marks the beginning of summer and with it, the hunt by many teenagers for a summer job. With the continued red-hot U.S. labor market, unemployment among 16- to 19-year-olds is at its lowest rate since 1953, meaning many teenage job-seekers have a good chance of landing a job right now. But the overall rosy summer jobs outlook this year masks the fact that not all teenagers are experiencing the benefits of this strong job market equally. The May jobs report confirmed that current unemployment rates among Black (11.7%) and Hispanic (10.1%) youth remain higher than those of their white peers (9.1%).

Why is having a summer job so important? Early work experience plays an essential role in building both soft and hard skills for future career success. Employers have high expectations for work readiness, communication and other “soft” skills that are difficult for youth to demonstrate without a track record of work experience. Inequities early on ripple into adulthood.

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