The Chicago Employment Law Blog

Chicago Unemployment: Teens Face A Potentially Jobless Summer

Several Chicago teenagers spoke to a small group of elected officials at a forum in the city's Far South Side. The teens addressed their need for summer jobs as teen unemployment in Illinois has reached an incredibly high rate of 27.5 percent.

Many teens said they needed a job to help pay for food, save for college, or even avoid potential homelessness and requested funding for a program that would create summer jobs.

Alternative Schools Network executive director Jack Wuest said the state faces potentially losing 18,000 jobs for teens because of cuts in federal stimulus funds. Experts also say the high unemployment rate and slow economic recovery has led to older workers displacing younger employees as they get hired for entry-level positions, reported the Chicago Tribune.

Case manager Jim Zeckhauser for Youth Guidance in Chicago said he was only able to help seven among the 34 teens he guides in getting a summer job because “it’s a struggle to find firms.” Brent Weiss, the owner of outdoor-gear retailer Uncle Dan’s, even said he is more selective about who he works and admitted that he would likely hire college students over teenagers.

“We are being really picky because we can,” said Weiss. Most small businesses in the Chicago area said they are waiting to see whether they can expand their businesses and hire more employees.

Teenagers across the country who are between the ages of 16 and 19 have suffered through the largest employment drop over the last ten years. Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies showed that the employment rate for teens within that age group was 26 percent, the lowest rate since World War II and almost half the 45 percent teen job rate in 2007.

“We hear you, we want to help you, and we’ll see what we can do,” said State Rep and Chicago local Maria Antonia Berrios to the teenagers.

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