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When Jobs are Scarce, Who Comes First?

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By Emma Aberle-Grasse

Atlanta’s unemployment rate is resting at 10.5 percent. And while that is not the worst in the country right now, we still feel the weight of the recession on our shoulders. When thousands of adults are facing the end of their unemployment benefits this year and looking for jobs, is it fair for minors to be filling the jobs working class adults may need?

Although most minors are not responsible for taking care of families, we are responsible for going to school. Many students do manage to juggle school and a job, but I imagine they would struggle to put their best effort into both of those time consuming commitments. So why is it still such a common thing for teenagers to do? Maybe because they need the money, but more likely because they want the extra dough. We teens are notorious spenders; I spend money all the time going out to eat when I could just grab a snack from home instead. We are also independence junkies; having our own money to spend gives us a feeling of responsibility and freedom.

I am not trying to be inconsiderate or ignorant about those high schoolers who don’t spend the money they earn. I understand that some kids who work put every penny into funds for college because their families can’t afford to send them. But I am talking about students like myself, from a middle and upper class families. While my family is not wealthy, private school  and out-of-state college has always been an option. If I had a job, most of what I earned would go to spending or saving up for a car I don’t need.

It may be a good idea for teenagers to have jobs, but with so many adults out of work, it’s unethical.  According to U.S. Department of Labor, the most recent US nationwide unemployment rate for persons 16 years and over remains at 9.5%, for African-Americans it jumps to 15.7%; for Latinos 12.1%. It is clear that some groups are very desperate for work, and they tend to be less noticed.

Even last year, unemployed adults were snatching summer jobs from under teenagers’ feet. Last summer USA Today published a story about the youth struggle for employment. Pools that usually had an average age of 17 among employees were hiring adults in their thirties and forties. One man, Troy Logan who was 34 years old, was hired instead of a younger lifeguard. If he’d been hired instead of me, sure I would have been upset for a little bit, but this man has two children to support. His wife has a steady job as a dental assistant, but his family cannot survive off of one income, and I am glad employers are beginning to understand that. Times are changing, and not everyone in the high chair with the whistle will be a hunky teenage boy. The girls will miss them, but their dads’ jobs are more important.

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When Jobs are Scarce, Who Comes First?