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Teenage Workers Bear Brunt of Recession Job Losses

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By Millicent Lawton

WASHINGTON--Teenage workers were the labor group hit hardest by the 1990-91 economic recession, according to a study released last week by the Children's Defense Fund.

The study--an analysis by the c.o.F. and Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies of U.S. Labor Department data for the first five months of 1990 and of 1991--found that workers under age 25 bore the brunt of job losses during the period.

Of those young workers, youths ages 16 to 19 experienced the largest shrinkage in available jobs. More than 67 percent, or 702,000, of the 1.03 million jobs lost among young workers, were lost among teenagers.

Over all, workers 24 and younger absorbed 86 percent of the 1.2 million jobs lost among all ages between early 1990 and early 1991.

While they suffered nearly all of the net job loss, workers under age 25 hold only about 15 percent of all jobs.

High-school dropouts among young workers were also harder hit than were graduates, the study said.

The recession's effect on young, black high-school dropouts was particularly devastating, the study said.

The employment rate of that group dropped by almost 21 percent during the period. In the first five months of 2990, before the recession began, nearly one-third of young, black high-school dropouts were employed. By this year, only one-fourth of that group held jobs.

Such unemployment reflects both the fact that young workers cannot find jobs and that they are too discouraged to enter or stay in the job market, the report said.

Not only did the official unemployment rate for workers under age 25 jump from an average of 11.1 percent during the first five months of 1990 to 13.4 percent during the same period in 1991, the study said, but the labor-force participation rate of young adults fell, reflecting worsening employment prospects.

The employment losses among young workers during the 1990-91 recession have erased many of the gains made by that group during the late 1980's, the study said. For example, job losses among young, black high-school dropouts during the study period did away with all of the gains that group had made since 1985, the report said.

The statistics have significance for families and children, the study noted, because two-thirds of the job losses occurred among young workers who were no longer students and, thus, were more likely to be responsible for supporting themselves and others.

Copies of the report, "Young Workers, Children, and the Recession," are available at no charge from the C.D.F., 122 C St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001.

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