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We all remember our first job — and first paycheck — as teens. Some of waited tables or folded clothes at a department store. While we all share nightmarish customer service stories, teens today cannot even score a job to share their own experiences in the future. Nearly a quarter of today’s teens are jobless; the same unemployment rate for adolescents during the Great Depression, PBS reports.

“It’s really hard, because it’s either ‘we have too many people, we don’t have enough money, our budget’s not right, you’re not experienced enough’…” said Zahquira Thomas, a 20-year-old Black woman still seeking work.

Compared to 2000, high school students are now working 50 percent less than they did 13 years ago. Not surprisingly, the earlier you ditch education, the less bright you future will be. However, there are other impediments to being employed — being a male, African American, and having unemployed parents, PBS notes.

With the help of a little nepotism, middle income teenagers are more likely to find jobs through connections with mom and dad willing to make some calls to get their teen some work.

“You find low-income kids work at the lowest rates by far. When you combine them, take a young black high school drop out low-income male, you’re talking five percent unemployment,” says Andrew Sum, Center for Labor Market Studies in Northeastern University. Poor African-American teens are suffering from a 95 percent jobless rate.

Employers would rather hire older candidates for the job than teens. Adolescents are competing for the same job positions as adults — unfortunately for them, teens usually lose. “Employers are telling us, and showing this in their behavior, that they’d rather hire older workers and young adults than teenagers,” said Sum. “They’ve got choices about whom to hire and teenagers are just […] at the back of that queue.”

Sum has noticed, as well as many other Americans, that the malls and fast food places are seldom filled with teenage workers these days. All the new jobs created in the food and retail industry were given to adult workers and immigrants instead. You might assume that increased American wealth has allowed teenagers to remain at home and study. Sum refutes these claims — American families have not increased in income since 2000. With the exception of CEOs, there has been no movement in U.S. household income for years. “It’s not increased affluence. It’s diminished jobs,” Sum concludes.

This new skewed employment of adults over teens results in negative consequences  adolescents’ lives. “Young kids who don’t work are more likely to engage in criminal behavior,” said Sum. “Young woman who don’t work are more likely to get pregnant. You lose experience [and the] opportunity to get training on the job. Employers look for stable, consistent work experience.”

The best way to predict who will still be living with their parents at 30 is to see what they did in their teens and early 20s, PBS concluded.

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