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Tuesday, April 5, 2011 - 12:28pm

Georgia Teen Unemployment Worst in Nation

Georgia unemployment has outpaced the nation for several years, but it’s even worse for the state’s teenagers.

Teen unemployment in Georgia is 37.3 percent and the highest in the nation, according to a 12-month analysis by the Employment Policies Institute. Meanwhile, Georgia’s overall unemployment rate was 10-point-2 percent in February.

“In addition to the recession, in addition to the fact that maybe you have more qualified workers that are sort of dropping down and taking jobs that maybe teens used to fill – we’ve seen some of that anecdotally – a lot of the jobs that teens are doing have sort of gone away because of rising costs to hire teens because of things like the minimum wage,” said Michael Saltsman, a research fellow at EPI. “A lot of those jobs just aren’t there anymore.”

Saltsman said the higher minimum wage can make it too costly for employers to hire inexperienced teens. And he said research shows there can be long-term ripple effects when teens can’t find work.

“Teens from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, if they don’t have employment, are at a higher risk of dropping out of high school or getting into legal trouble,” Saltsman said. “Now, once you drop out of high school, that triggers a whole other range of consequences that have been studied in terms of lower lifetime employment chances, lower earnings, things like this.”

Saltsman said it’s important to hire teenagers and get them job experience so they’re more marketable later in their lives.

South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida and Alabama also have teen unemployment above 30 percent.

EPI studies public policy around entry-level jobs.

Click here to see the complete ranking from EPI.

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