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December 03. 2012 8:47PM

Study finds 40 percent fewer teenagers are working in NH than in 2000

The number of teenagers of working age in New Hampshire who have a job has fallen by nearly 40 percent since the year 2000, a study by a private foundation has found.

Just 35 percent of the state's 16-19 year olds worked in even part-time employment in 2011, according to the report prepared by researchers at the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Reasons for the dive in the employment rate include the loss of entry-level manufacturing jobs, improved workplace productivity and automation, according to Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and data at the foundation.

The disappearance of mom and pop style businesses is a big factor, because it takes away the natural first job for a lot of teens.

"We're losing that community base of some of the smaller businesses where the owner would know the family and the parents and would take the chance that the young person would actually show up," Speer said. "A lot of first jobs that I may have gotten when I was a teenager in the '80s just don't exist any more."

By 2011, 35 percent of Granite State teens over 16 had jobs - the 13th best rate in the country. Among people aged 20-24, the percentage of the population working in New Hampshire is fifth best in the country, with 72 percent of the people in that age group holding at least a part-time job.

Still, even the young adult employment race has dropped compared to a decade ago, when 82 percent of people in their early 20s were working.

"This is a critical issue because these first jobs are not necessarily about learning hard skills that they are going to be able to build a career on," Steer said. "It's really about 'soft' skills, showing up to work on time, learning to work on a team and learning to problem-solve without depending on their parents."

Speer said other studies have shown that people who don't join the labor force when they are young tend to have more frequent periods of unemployment in later years.

The foundation is calling for improving the employment picture among teens and young adults through steps such as creating a national youth employment strategy, using enterprises such as Goodwill to put young people to work, encouraging businesses to create learn-and-earn programs and stimulating the development of very small businesses, called micro-enterprises.

billsmith@unionleader.com

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