With so many breadwinners unemployed in this recession, it's easy to dismiss the struggles of teens and young adults who are trying to find work.
Laurie Stern of Chaska reminded me recently there's a deeper issue here. These days it's often not about teens earning "fun money" during the summer or over winter holidays. That cash is a vital piece of household income.
"Part-time jobs are a major portion of our children's savings for their college years," said Stern, part of MPR's Public Insight Network.
"Without the summer income, we will struggle to make sure they have money for books and miscellaneous spending during the year; needless to say, they will not be able to help with the tuition costs."
There's no doubt the the recession's been particularly rough on the economy's youngest workers.
"The entry level labor market is getting more crowded as experienced workers are hit by layoffs, older workers delay retirement and brand-new college graduates seek employment outside their fields of study," the state labor department wrote in its May teen summer jobs outlook report.
Federal stimulus money eased some of this year's problem. State officials said the money helped employ more than 6,000 Minnesota teens and young adults over the summer.
Still, the Federal Reserve of Minneapolis found the recession accelerating the trend of teens simply leaving the labor force.
When the Fed checked in on applicants for STEP-UP, a popular Minneapolis summer program, it found many teens having a difficult time getting a job. Demand for STEP-UP is expected to be huge next summer. This year, it received 3,200 applications for 1,300 jobs.
Stern said her son, a college sophomore has been working at a local grocery store since he turned 16.
During high school he struggled to keep up with school/activities because they wanted him to work more hours than he would have liked. Last summer when he came home after freshman year he was lucky to have a job that gave him some hours, but he didn't make as much as he would have liked over the summer. They would not let him work recently over Thanksgiving break and we are still waiting to see if he will be able to work Christmas break. They want to hire him back and need the extra help, but can't due to a hiring freeze. He has been unable to even find a work study job at school. He's applied to many but all the positions have so many applying, sometimes close to 100 for 1 position, and he has yet to find a work study job. He is hopeful for second semester.
She also has a daughter who's a senior and looking for a job. "She has dropped off several applications at local fast food, tanning, theatre, etc. and has not yet received a call."
Stern said she and her husband have been seeking part time work to supplement the family income. "We have cut our expenses drastically and would not need very much to keep us in the black; however, that elusive part-time job is not to be found."
1/13 UPDATE: Stern dropped us a note to say her son got a work-study job at the University of Minnesota for spring semester.
"He will be working 12 hours a week in the map library; which is great because it is right in line with his geography major. He is also looking into internships for the summer but finding that most are unpaid, so he will need another job in addition to whatever internship he may find. The rest of us continue to look. "
Do you know a teen or young adult who's found work or is trying to find work? Post below or contact me directly and tell me about the experience.