Posted August 21, 2012 by

2.1 Million Young Adults Hired Since April

Two young blonde women working on computersFrom April to July 2012, the number of employed youth 16 to 24 years old rose 2.1 million to 19.5 million, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. This year, the share of young people employed in July was 50.2 percent. (The month of July typically is the summertime peak in youth employment.) Unemployment among youth increased by 836,000 from April to July 2012, compared with an increase of 745,000 for the same period in 2011. (Because this analysis focuses on the seasonal changes in youth employment and unemployment that occur each spring and summer, the data are not seasonally adjusted.)

Labor force

The youth labor force–16- to 24-year-olds working or actively looking for work–grows sharply between April and July each year. During these months, large numbers of high school and college students search for or take summer jobs, and many graduates enter the labor market to look for or begin permanent employment. This summer, the youth labor force grew by 2.9 million, or 14.2 percent, to a total of 23.5 million in July.

The labor force participation rate for all youth–the proportion of the population 16 to 24 years old working or looking for work–was 60.5 percent in July, up from July 2011. Taking a longer-term perspective,the July 2012 participation rate was 17.0 percentage points below the peak rate for that month in 1989 (77.5 percent).

The July 2012 labor force participation rate for 16- to 24-year-old men was 63.2 percent. The rate for young women was 57.8 percent. From 1948, when the series began, to 1989, the July labor force participation rate for young men showed no clear trend, ranging from 81 to 86 percent. Since 1989, however, their July participation rate has trended down, falling by about 20 percentage points. The July labor force participation rate for young women peaked in 1989 at 72.4 percent, following a long-term upward trend. The participation rate of young women has fallen by about 15 percentage points since 1989.

The youth labor force participation rate for whites was 62.9 percent in July 2012, compared with 54.5 percent for blacks, 43.7 percent for Asians, and 57.1 percent for Hispanics.


Employment for 16- to 24-year-olds reached 19.5 million in July 2012, up 2.1 million since April. In 2011, youth employment rose by 1.7 million from April to July. The July 2012 employment-population ratio foryouth–the proportion of the 16- to 24-year-old civilian noninstitutional population with a job–was 50.2 percent, up from July 2011.

In July 2012, the youth employment-population ratio for men was 51.9 percent, and the ratio for women was 48.4 percent. The ratio for whites was 53.5 percent, compared with 38.9 percent for blacks, 37.4 percent for Asians, and 46.5 percent for Hispanics.

Twenty-six percent of employed youth worked in the leisure and hospitality sector (which includes food services) in July 2012, the same proportion as in July 2011. Another 19 percent of employed youth worked in the retail trade industry in July 2012, down slightly from the proportion in July 2011.


The number of unemployed youth in July 2012 was 4.0 million, little changed from 4.1 million a year ago. The youth unemployment rate was 17.1 percent in July 2012. The unemployment rate for young men was 17.9 percent, in July 2012, and the rate for women was 16.2 percent. The jobless rate for whites was 14.9 percent, compared with 28.6 percent for blacks, 14.4 percent for Asians, and 18.5 percent for Hispanics.

Photo by Shutterstock: Young adults working on computers

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