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Teen employment rates in most US cities has slumped since 2000

If you are a teenager looking for a job in the past decade, the Provo-Orem, Utah, area was the place to be. Among America’s 100 largest metro areas, it alone had a greater share of teens working in 2012 than in 2000, a new Brookings Institution analysis finds.

Home to Brigham Young University, Provo-Orem saw the employment rate for 16- to 19-year-olds climb 0.6 point to 48.6 percent by 2012. Pittsburgh, the second-best performer, showed a 5.1 point drop to 35.1 percent from 40.2 percent.

The worst performer was the Cape Coral and Fort Myers area of Florida, where the employment rate for teens slumped 27.4 points to 25.2 percent. The bottom of the list was dominated by metropolitan areas with generally weaker labor markets, a trend that bodes poorly for those areas’ future workforces.

“If everyone is having a hard time in the labor market, young people are even more so,” said Martha Ross, a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington and an author of the report. “Work experience begets work, so it’s a cause for concern for how they’re going to do in the labor market down the line.”

Nationally, about one of every four teens was employed in 2011, down from about 45 percent in 2000, the report showed. Young adults, those 20 to 24 years old, didn’t fare much better, as their employment rates dropped to 61 percent in 2011 from 72 percent in 2000, the report showed.

While Fort Myers lost the most ground in teen employment, the area including Riverside and San Bernardino, had the lowest overall rate for teens in 2012, at 15.1 percent. Areas including McAllen, Texas, and Los Angeles were the next lowest.

Nationwide, teens with higher levels of education had better outcomes. Those who graduated from high school, though not yet enrolled in college, had the highest employment rates, while high school students and dropouts were the least likely to have a job.

“The labor market is increasingly rewarding and requiring high levels of education,” Ross said.

The situation for young people is little changed nationally since the 2012 data Ross used. Teen’s employment-to-population ratio stood at 25.8 percent in February, down from 26 percent in the final month of 2012.

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