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Work prospects dismal for young in ABQ

Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

The Great Recession clobbered the Albuquerque economy, but it absolutely pummeled younger workers, the Brookings Institution reports in an economic study of youth employment in the nation’s 100 largest cities that it will release today.

Brookings found that while 43.8 percent of Albuquerque’s 16- to 19-year-olds were employed in 2000, only 19.5 percent had jobs in 2012.

employmentgraphicAmong 20- to 24-year-old workers, 69.7 percent had jobs in 2000. By 2012, the employment rate declined to 59.0 percent.

Workers 25 years old and older did much better. Their employment rate was 62.5 percent in 2000 and 59.9 percent in 2012.

Brookings said 16,200, or 15 percent, of Albuquerque’s young people are “disconnected” – they don’t work, they are not in school and they have less than an associate degree – and 6,600 of them don’t have a high school diploma.

The Albuquerque Public Schools graduation rate in 2013 was 73.3 percent, not counting charter schools, and 68.7 percent when charter schools are included.

Girls graduated at a better rate than boys last year, 74.9 percent versus 65.9 percent.

Albuquerque’s employment rate for 16- to 19-year-olds ranked the city 94th out of the nation’s 100 largest cities, down from 58th in 2000. Its ranking for employment among 20- to 25-year-olds was 78th, down from 59th, and among workers 25 and older 73rd, down form 68th.

Brookings said 12 percent of young people in Ogden, Utah, the city with the best young employment rate, were disconnected.

Economist Gerry Bradley of New Mexico Voices for Children said the findings are “not surprising” because they reflect a larger malaise afflicting New Mexico’s economy: low demand for labor.

New Mexico has one of the nation’s worst labor force participation rates, at 60 percent in 2011, and one of the lowest percentages of the population that is employed, 54.9 percent.

Bradley said the data show that demand for labor in New Mexico in general is weak.

“Given that the overall labor force participation and employment-to-population ratios are so low in New Mexico, it is not surprising that the teen labor force indices in Albuquerque are so low,” he said.

Among all 100 cities studied, Brookings found that 16- through 19-year-olds are employed at the lowest rate, 26 percent, since World War II. The employment rate for young adults is 61 percent.

Employment rates ranged widely among the nation’s cities. Brookings said the best teen employment rates in 2012 were 43.2 in Ogden, Utah, 42.3 percent in Omaha, Neb., and 42.2 percent in Des Moines, Iowa. The worst rates were all in California: 16.9 percent in Los Angeles, 17.4 percent in Modesto, and 17.7 in the Riverside area.

Bradley said recent demographic data have shown that New Mexico is losing working-age population to other states, which he said is “an indication that workers are moving to where the jobs are. The labor market is stronger in surrounding states, so people are moving to those states.”

The deterioration of employment rates “may be in part due to cyclical factors,” he said. The nation was at full employment in 2000 and still recovering in 2012 from its worst recession since the 1930s.

“Given that New Mexico and Albuquerque have been very slow to recover from the construction-led recession, one could expect that weak demand for labor would hit the least experienced the hardest,” especially younger workers, Bradley said.

“Employers have their pick of workers in a higher unemployment situation so they can hire more experienced and qualified workers.”