In case you haven't heard, the economy is not so great these days, and getting a job is still a daunting process. But lost in all this conversation about people not being able to afford food or healthcare or education for their children is the sacrifice so many of today's teens have been forced to make — not working summer jobs.
Granted, some young people do help support their families, and steady jobs often keep otherwise unruly teenagers off the streets. But the apparent teen unemployment crisis seems secondary to the larger-scale unemployment crisis facing people of all ages.
Still, there's no denying this is a particularly bad time to be a teenager looking for work. In 2010 and 2011, teens suffered the worst summers for jobs since World War II. The unemployment rate among 16-year-olds to 19-year-olds is currently almost 25 percent.
It's easy (and tempting) to dismiss the work concerns of teens as frivolous, especially when most are still living off of their parents and looking for spending money.
Brandon Hutchinson, 17, in line with about 200 other teens waiting to register for New York City's summer job program, said he has made it through the job lottery two out of the three times he applied. He recalled 2010, when he was not chosen, as "a dead summer," adding that although he had his friends, "I'd rather be getting paid."
But Hutchinson reveals that in the summer of 2011, he worked in the kitchen at Henry Street Settlement, a nonprofit agency. Doing work to better the community is probably worth a paycheck, even if you're going to spend it on whatever crap teenagers are spending their money on these days.
And for teens from low-income families, those extra earnings really do make a difference. Unfortunately, it's the teenagers from those families in need who have the most trouble finding work.
The poorest Americans bear the brunt of the teen job crisis. Only one of every five teenagers whose family had income below $20,000 a year was hired last summer, a report by Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies found.
In contrast, the teen employment rate was 41 percent for those with family incomes of $100,000 to $150,000 a year.
These figures make it harder to sympathize — not with the teens who actually need the money, but with those who are working odd jobs to save up for a car.
Incidentally, if you're a teen in need of a job, this article recommends the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy area, where the teen unemployment rate is only 14.8 percent. If you can afford to relocate, however, you probably don't need that summer paycheck.