Report: More Minn. youth have jobs than US peers

Thomas Allen, a teenager from north Minneapolis, was looking for a job last year and hoped to study business and culinary arts.
MPR Photo/Annie Baxter

Minnesota teenagers and young adults have stronger employment numbers than most of their peers across the country, according to a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which tracks youth and work.

The "Kids Count" report found that 42 percent of Minnesota residents ages 16 to 19 work, while the national average is 26 percent. Minnesota's young adults ages 20 to 24 had among the highest employment rates in the country, at 74 percent. Nationally, that number is 61 percent.

The report found that the upper Midwest was strong on youth employment in general. North Dakota, Nebraska and Minnesota had the highest rates of employment among 20- to 24-year-olds, joined by Iowa, Wisconsin and South Dakota for people ages 16 to 19.

Laura Speer, one of the authors of the report, said early employment is a key indicator for success later in life.

"The thing that you got and I got from our very first job is mostly about how to work," Speer said. "How to be on a team, how to have a boss, how to show up on time. And those -- what are termed as "soft skills" -- are things that are really critically important going forward."

About 11 percent of the state's young people are considered "disconnected youth" -- those who are neither in school nor working, the report said. These 71,000 young Minnesotans have much lower prospects for employment later in life.

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Speer said that although Minnesota's youth employment numbers are stronger than the national average, the state has lost ground in the last decade.

"In 2000, 82 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds and 63 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds had a job," Speer said. "Even though it's better than it is in other states, there's been pretty dramatic declines over the past 10 years."

The study noted one silver lining to the diminished work prospects for American youth: More young people are staying in school.

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