Skip to Content

Crisis in Youth Employment Topic of Latest KIDS COUNT Policy Report

EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE              Contact:      Linda O’Neal

Until 12:01 a.m. EDT, December 3, 2012                        Phone         (615) 532-1600
                                                                                                         Pam Brown

                                                                                       Phone         (615) 532-1571

Nashville –– Perhaps the hardest job at any time and any age is looking for work. It is more difficult if you are young and have limited education and no work experience, and even more difficult if you are a member of a minority group. Add to that a lack of knowledge and understanding of job-seeking and interviewing skills, and the task is even harder.

Employment of youth ages 16 to 24 is at its lowest point in 50 years, according to a new policy report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT project, Youth and Work, Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunity. The economic downturn has forced adolescents and young adults to compete for entry-level jobs now held by more experienced, older workers as many displaced workers now hold positions that have historically been “starter” jobs for youth.

Fewer than one in four Tennessee youth ages 16 to 19 were working in 2011, when only nine other states had a smaller percentage of youth in this age group employed. For members of minority groups, the national percentage of 16-to-19-year old youth employed dropped by about half between 2000 and 2011.

Only 60 percent of Tennesseans ages 20 to 24 were employed in 2011. Nationally 4.3 million young adults (20 to 24) were not in school or working. Of these, one in five was a parent.

This high percentage of disconnected youth raises concerns for the future. Youth shut out of the labor market for long periods in the early part of their careers must struggle for work thereafter. Projections are that taxpayers will bear a burden of $1.56 trillion as a result of the failure of youth ages 16 to 24 to find work during the recent economic downturn.

“Preparing young people for successful employment requires a collaborative commitment on the part of families, schools, businesses and community organizations,” said Linda O’Neal, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. “We need to work together to provide youth with opportunities to develop the knowledge and skills necessary for them to become productive employees.”

In Tennessee in 2011, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development reports serving 7,788 youth through Workforce Investment Areas. Nearly three-fourths of these youth successfully achieved employment or enrollment in post secondary education. Programs across the state include, for example, an in-school program administered by Dyersburg State Community College that uses at-risk youth as tutors, reinforcing the tutor’s academic skills and providing individualized instruction for other students.

However, federally supported youth employment programs nationally only have enough funds to serve one percent of the youth needing their help, according to the report.

The report calls on businesses, governments, philanthropies and communities to come together to create opportunities to put young people back on track in a dynamic, advancing economy to ensure their success and to build a stronger workforce for the future.

Recommendations in the report include:

  • A national youth employment strategy developed by policymakers that streamlines systems and makes financial aid, funding and other support services more accessible and flexible; encourages more businesses to hire young people; and focuses on results, not process;
  • Aligning resources within communities and among public and private funders to create collaborative efforts to support youth;
  • Exploring new ways to create jobs through social enterprises such as Goodwill and microenterprises, with the support of public and private investors;
  • Employer-sponsored earn-and-learn programs that foster the talent and skills that businesses require — and develop the types of employees they need.


The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth ( is a state agency created by the Tennessee General Assembly. Its primary mission is to advocate for improvements in the quality of life for Tennessee children and families.


The KIDS COUNT project has been ranking states on child well-being for over 20 years. It has recently expanded its publication schedule with Data Briefs and Policy Reports. KIDS COUNT is a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the report can be found on its website (, the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to disadvantaged children.


Additional information on disconnected youth and young adults is available in the KIDS COUNT Data Center, which also contains the most recent national, state and local data on hundreds of indicators of child well-being, including Tennessee specific information compiled by the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. The Data Center allows users to create rankings, maps and graphs for use in publications, grant applications and on websites, and to view real-time information on mobile devices.
For more information, contact (615) 741-2633 or a TCCY regional coordinator.

TCCY is on Facebook at www.facebook/TCCYonfb and on Twitter as @tccy.

Follow the Annie E. Casey Foundation and this issue on
Twitter @aecfkidscount and on Facebook at


NOTE: On Dec. 6, the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth will temporarily move to 601 Mainstream Dr. Telephone numbers and email addresses will not change. U.S. Postal Service mail sent using the state zip code 37243-0800 will be delivered to the new address.


- 30   -