Should We Blame Grandpa for Teen Joblessness?: Echoes

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By Amity Shlaes and Ilan Kolet

As we mentioned earlier this week, increases in the minimum wage may be one factor pushing teenagers out of the workforce. Another factor to consider may be the increase in employment among older Americans.

As this graphic shows, the labor-force participation rate for those 65 and older has nearly doubled since reaching a low of about 10 percent in the mid-1980s. It peaked earlier this year at 18 percent. The last time senior participation rates were this high was in the late 1960s.

Participation rates among Americans ages 16 to 19 has been declining since the late 1970s. Some of this decline can be attributed to increases in educational attainment (a good thing), but not all of it. Teenage unemployment rates in the U.S. peaked at nearly 30 percent during the recession, and have since only declined to 24 percent.

This is not to encourage the "lump of labor" fallacy. Just pointing to an interesting correlation.

(Amity Shlaes, a senior fellow in economic history at the Council on Foreign Relations and a Bloomberg View columnist, oversees the Echoes blog. The opinions expressed are her own. Ilan Kolet, who created this graphic, is a data editor at Bloomberg News.)

-0- Jul/01/2011 17:10 GMT