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More Jobs, But Wait: They May Not Pay Much


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. The economy added 165,000 jobs in April. That exceeded the expectations of economists. It also drove down the unemployment rate to a four-year low, 7.5 percent. Unfortunately, the biggest gains were in lower-paying fields like hospitality and temp agencies. And as the school year comes to a close and young people start looking, the question is will there be enough work for them. NPR's Sonari Glinton reports.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Wall Street got pretty excited about the jobs numbers. The Department of Labor went back and revised the last two months' numbers, stocks were up and all was right with the world. OK - maybe not.

LOUIS HYMAN: But when you start to dig deeper and start to tease apart the numbers, you get a very different picture of what's going on in the economy.

GLINTON: Louis Hyman teaches at Cornell University, and he says while those who got full-time work went up by 165,000, there's another number he's looking at.

HYMAN: Well, the people who are working part-time jobs is increasing by almost 300,000. So, you know, what we're starting to see in these numbers is not a recovery of full-time, good, stable work, the way we think work should be, but an economy of temps, waiters and people stringing together part-time gigs.

GLINTON: All right. Here's the thing: there are nearly eight million people who are working part-time but want to be working full-time. Hyman says those jobs are often jobs that would have normally been taken by teenagers.

HYMAN: Are now taken by people who are in their 30s and their 40s, people who are being laid off and looking for work and so their crowding out those younger workers, with a, I think, a long-term effect on the formation of jobs skills for younger people.

GLINTON: If you want to see this effect on young people you need only seek out your nearest group of teenagers.


GLINTON: Those closest groups to me was at Hamilton High in Los Angeles. Darian Hall is a senior and she's finally gotten a job after looking for years. She works at Best Buy. She says not working through most of high school has taught her to save her money.

DARIAN HALL: Prom's coming up soon, so, you know, I have to buy a prom dress. And, like, I don't want to be, like, on my mom, like, oh my god, can you help me buy this? Like, I want to do stuff on my own kind of, be a little bit independent.

GLINTON: Hall says she volunteered before finally finding a job. She says the thing that was stressing her out was getting work experience - any work experience.

HALL: It's not going to be as hard anymore since I have work experience, 'cause that's what they really look for mostly. And if you don't have work experience, then it's kind of like what are you doing-ish kind of, yeah.

GLINTON: Hall's friend Kyanna Holness says she can't find a part-time job but she'll take what she can get.

KYANNA HOLNESS: It doesn't really matter. Like, she said, it's like mostly, I'm looking for work experience, like, I'm not afraid to work for free 'cause, you know, in this economy it's kind of hard to find a good-paying job, especially if you're 17.

BILL RODGERS: In an economy where we're just barely keeping pace in terms of population growth that prosperity is going to be very slow to come to young people.

GLINTON: Bill Rodgers is an economist at Rutgers University. He says not only are young people competing with adults for part-time work...

RODGERS: ...since you have these adults working in jobs that are below their capacity, true capacity, there's less income, less earnings, less tax revenue going into the economy and which then translates into fewer jobs - spillover jobs - that would go to teens.

GLINTON: Rodgers says that one of the biggest factors that could affect young people is if the economy takes a hit because of government cuts, referred to as sequestration. He says the effects of the cuts on the economy are likely to show up in June and July when young people are entering the workforce.

RODGERS: I'm very nervous about this summer for young people, especially for young minority teens who have unemployment rates that are well in excess of 20 percent. And then if you go in some urban areas, they even have unemployment rates, you know, in the 30, 40 percent.

GLINTON: Which Rodgers says will not only affect those young people's jobs prospects in the future but our overall economy for years to come. Sonari Glinton, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sonari Glinton is a NPR Business Desk Correspondent based at our NPR West bureau. He covers the auto industry, consumer goods, and consumer behavior, as well as marketing and advertising for NPR and Planet Money.