Hoosier teen unemployment rate falls to under 7 percent

INDIANAPOLIS - A new sign that shows the economy has rebounded lies in the number of teens working. Data released Thursday showed that less than seven percent of Indiana teens who wanted to work in 2016 were unable to land jobs.

The data, which was compiled by the Current Population Survey found that:

  • 35.6% of Indiana teens between 16 and 19 were employed in 2016.
  • 6.9% of Indiana teens between 16 and 19 were unemployed in 2016.
  • The remaining 57.5% were not looking to join the workforce.

The data is great news, according to the leader of the Indiana Youth Institute, which promotes healthy development for Indiana's youth.

“It’s a good time for teens to look for jobs because finally the recession, and the trickle down, is hitting teens," said Tami Silverman, the president and CEO of IYI. "Right now we are seeing those employment rates of teens go up significantly (which we’re really encouraged by and we know that in Indiana we had the fifth largest increase in teen employment across the country.”

Indiana's teen employment rate in 2015 was at 25.3 percent.

Silverman said there are many reasons why teens should work early in life. “They learn how to provide good customer service, they learn how to work on teams, they learn how to be financially responsible, all of those things that will set them up for future success," she said.

Back in March, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett launched a new initiative. Project Indy aimed to put 2,000 teens to work this summer.

A city spokesperson said Thursday that the city and organizations behind the program will reach the goal this summer and surpass it between the number of youth landing jobs or receiving job training.

“All those groups working together to really focus on how to we make sure kids have a meaningful summer experience is really what is producing those great numbers," said Silverman.

While the unemployment has fallen from 11.3 percent in 2015 to nearly seven percent a year later, there are still challenges to providing jobs for all teens.

TeenWorks is a job placement program providing six-weeks of summer employment. The organization has grown to 400 teenagers this summer who are made of students who qualify for free or reduce lunch at school.

“There is a need for the family overall to have more income so the same needs that exist in the summer exist in the school year," said Tammie Barney, the president and CEO of TeenWorks.

Barney said low-income teens face more difficult times with transportation to jobs as there are fewer opportunities close to home, compared to their peers in suburban areas who have more retail nearby.

The summer break is nearing the mid-way point for teenagers in high school, but that doesn't mean students should stop looking for work if they're interested.

“It doesn’t matter that we are close to the Fourth of July holiday, the reality is it’s still a good idea for teens to look for jobs," Silverman said.

At TeenWorks, the summer employment program will expand to the school year for the first time this fall. Barney said it will begin with 75 students before expanding, if all goes well.

"If a student has the capacity to work 12-15 hours a week and keep their academics going, we want to help supplement their incomes," she said.

Silverman said teen unemployment had reached historically high numbers during the recession.

During that time, many adults were underemployed and held jobs that could have gone to teenagers. With the economy's bounce back, more adults are back working jobs they want and teens are back to jobs in retail, fast food and lawn care or other outdoor positions.