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Illinois teen unemployment rate up 67 percent
Daily Herald Staff Report
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Published: 2/26/2010 10:04 AM

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New employment data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that Illinois' teen unemployment rate has increased 67 percent in the last five years.

The data shows that teens are having an increasingly hard time finding work. Though the state added an additional 30,000 teens to its population in the last five years, the percentage of those teens that are employed or looking for work fell by 12 percent.

"The recession may be ending, but Illinois is still in the midst of a teen employment depression," said Michael Saltsman, research fellow at the Employment Policies Institute.

Teen unemployment in Illinois averaged 25.8 percent in 2009; in 2005, that number was 15.3 percent. Exacerbating the rise in teen unemployment was a 45 percent hike in the state's minimum wage between January 2005 and October 2009.

"The unintended consequence of state legislators' good intentions was an increase in the cost to hire and train entry-level employees, like teenagers," Saltsman continued.

Faced with increased labor costs from a minimum-wage increase, employers can either slash the number of low-wage jobs they offer, or hire more skilled applicants. Either way, the door for employment is effectively shut for less-experienced teens searching for that all-important first job.

Multiple studies and surveys of economists as far back as the 1940s echo these findings. Most recently, in 2007, the University of New Hampshire found 73 percent of labor economists surveyed in agreement that a mandated minimum wage hike decreases the number of entry-level employees hired.