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Copyright 1997 by the Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning

Work Experiences of Wyoming's Youth

by: Carol Toups
Research by: Lee Saathoff

In 1990, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) began the School-to-Work (STW)/Youth Apprenticeship Demonstration. May 1994 saw the passage of the STWOA (School-to-Work Opportunities Act) which was signed by President Clinton and coordinated by both DOL and U.S. Department of Education. These programs were developed due to concern that high school graduates, especially those not attending college, lack the necessary skills to enter the labor market. Many have no career plans and need guidance in choosing occupations that are stable or growing in demand, provide good pay and benefits, and offer opportunities for advancement. STW programs focus on project-based learning, often requiring students to keep a minimum grade point average and/or attendance record while providing actual workplace experience(1). A serious problem that becomes apparent from our youth work experience study is that first employment for many young women seems to set the trend for future expectations and they do not always venture out of the low paying Retail Trade and Services industries. A primary goal should be developed for both junior/senior high schools and STW programs to broaden training and education for future interests of young women for jobs in all industries, especially those that will be in demand and pay well. They must be shown that the possibility for future employment does not have to be limited to being a waitress, hotel maid or cashier. However, previous work experience at a younger age, in any industry, may later improve chances for success in landing a job.

In what industries do Wyoming’s youth tend to be employed? Do these industries differ for males and females? Does the industry change as the youth become older? Do they typically work all year or mainly in the summer? These are some of the questions that can be answered from a study by Research & Planning staff which matched the Driver’s License files, Employment Resource Center files (local job offices), Unemployment Insurance (UI) wage records(2), and Vocational Rehabilitation files. A combination of information (such as social security number, age, gender, city, employer, job industry, number of and specific quarters worked, and number of youth not employed ... ) was taken from these files and combined into one master file for 1995.

The youth work experience study was based on those between the ages of 16 through 20. For the purposes of this article, only the 18, 19 and 20 year old groups will be examined. The reason for this is that the percent total for 16 and 17 year olds is considerably lower when compared to population estimates for these groups, and therefore, the sample is not as well represented as the youth aged 18 to 20. For this older age bracket, a majority of the youth is present in the study, as seen by the total percentages ranging from 85 to 99 percent (see Table 1)(3). Figures from the Population Estimates Branch, U.S. Bureau of the Census from 7/1/95 (released in April 1996) also indicate this research has a strong sample with approximately 91.7 percent of the population of youth from ages 18 to 20 represented.

Interesting findings from these files: males expand the variety of industries in which they find employment over time, while females seem to predominately start out and remain in two of the lowest paying industries: Retail Trade and Services. This also holds true for the 16 and 17 year old females. From the U.S. Bureau of Census numbers, it appears the number of youth available to fill the growing number of positions in these two industries will soon begin to decline. This may place upward pressure on wages in the Retail Trade and Services industries. During the six-year period, from April 1, 1990 to July 1, 1996, the estimated population figures reported the number of children ages zero to four years decreased 11.7 percent, and those from five to nine years old dropped by 14.4 percent. This loss of youth labor may begin to be experienced by employers around the year 2003. At that time, the 1996 ten year olds will be turning 16 and this age bracket shows a population decline of about 8.5 percent.

Of the 21,763 youth (ages 18 to 20) in this study, 6,790 (31.2%) did not have a job during 1995 (see Table 2). There were 1,973 eighteen year olds that were not employed, nineteen year olds numbered 2,077, and those at age 20 were the highest at 2,740. Possible explanations for this increase of youth not employed at age twenty are: those attending out-of-state colleges and retaining their Wyoming driver’s license, or going to college and not holding a job. Some might work for an employer that is not covered by UI, such as certain groups within Production Agriculture or those self-employed. When comparing the numbers of those not working between the genders (males at 3,793 versus females at 2,997), the impression is that female youth are more likely to hold jobs than male youth. However, this theory is dispelled when the Current Population Survey (CPS) household survey annual average for 1995 is examined. There are approximately 2,000 males between the ages of 16 to 19 years old on the CPS employed in Production Agriculture, while their female counterparts on the CPS have no employees in this area. Without the CPS to supplement the weaknesses of wage records coverage, we would not be able to estimate the bias in our administrative databases.

The largest group of young people (6,997 or 32.2%) are employed in the lowest paying jobs. Retail Trade (see Table 2) is first with 6,997 or 32.2 percent, and in second place is Services at 3,712 or 17.1 percent. Construction, Public Administration, and Manufacturing have the next highest rankings. Table 2 shows actual numbers for each industry. The numbers become more interesting when broken into categories by gender. Retail Trade has the highest number of males at 3,095 and females at 3,902. Totals in both decline slightly as age goes up. Services is next highest with 1,536 males and 2,176 females. Retail Trade and Services are the dominant industries for both genders. However, the proportion of females is significantly higher in both Retail Trade and Services. The percentage total for females at this point (including those not working, Retail Trade and Services) is 89.3 percent, while the males accounted for totals 72.6 percent. The third highest female industry is Public Administration (282 or 2.8%), probably due to a higher number of clerical positions available. The industry rankings for the remaining females are not as significant because they are so close (varying from 0.6 % to 1.9%). See Table 3 for details on female industry rankings.

One point stands clear: more young women consistently start in the lowest paying industries of Retail Trade and Services, and also remain in them. However, as male age increases, so do their numbers in different industries, such as Construction, Mining, Manufacturing, Wholesale Trade, and Transportation, Communications, & Public Utilities (TCPU). Two industries that did not change much with age were Services and Public Administration. Industries with decreasing employment from ages 18 to 20 were Retail Trade and Finance, Insurance, & Real Estate (FIRE). Numbers of males by industry can be seen in Table 4.

This youth employment study also included information on the specific quarters that were worked in 1995. The Figure displays all possible quarter combinations and the number of teens that worked during those time periods. The total number of young people working in this study ages 18, 19 and 20 in 1995 was 14,973. It should be noted that within these quarters, the youth may have been employed for only one or two months rather than the full quarter. Furthermore, the number of hours worked (part-time versus full-time) is unknown.

For those working only one quarter of the year, the Christmas holiday season - fourth quarter (October, November, December) had the highest number at 694 (4.6%), and the summer season (third quarter) was next at 607 (4.1%). For those working two quarters of the year, April through September (second and third quarters) had the most youth employed at 1,721 or 11.5 percent. Third and fourth quarters (July through December) were the next most popular time periods, with employed youth reaching 1,068 (7.1%). Within the three quarter combinations, 1,734 or 11.6 percent were working April to December (second, third and fourth quarters). Quarters one, two and three (January to September) came in second place with 1,496 (10.0%) young people working Wyoming youth employed all four quarters in 1995 reached 5,304 or 35.4 percent of those working that were included in this project. Based on this information, approximately two-thirds of Wyoming’s youth worked intermittently while one-third were employed throughout all of 1995.

The Department of Employment’s Research & Planning section produces publications with career information including Wyoming Career Explorer (specifically for high school juniors/seniors) and Wyoming Career Trails (specifically for post high school individuals). These two publications contain educational requirements for selected careers with programs of study offered in Wyoming, future job prospects and salary ranges for selected occupations, and general information useful in career planning and job seeking. Where Are the Jobs? What Do They Pay? features detailed data on covered wages and employment for each of Wyoming’s counties and What Does the Future Have in Store for Wyoming’s Labor Market? describes which industries and occupations are expected to grow and decline.

The youth work experience study provides valuable knowledge at a very low cost, as there is no actual data collection involved. Through the combination of existing administrative databases (UI wage records, Driver’s License, Vocational Rehabilitation and local job office records), the job choices of young people can be examined and suggestions presented for improvement.

Carol Toups is a Senior Statistician, specializing in Covered Employment and Wages with Research & Planning.

1 U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration 1997, Experiences and Lessons of the School-to-Work/Youth Apprenticeship Demonstration.

2 Unemployment Insurance (UI) wage records definition: Employers must submit a quarterly report of each employee’s wages earned, for those individuals who are covered by the UI program. For more detailed information on wage records, please refer to "The Relation of Age and Gender to Employment in Wyoming" in the May 1996 issue of Trends.

3 Prepared by Wyoming Department of Administration and Information, Division of Economic Analysis (6/1/96).

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Last modified on June 7, 2001 by Valerie A. Davis.