Study: Toledo area youths see jobs vanish

Employment rate plunges since 2000


The employment rate for young adults in the Toledo area fell about 17 percentage points from 2000 through 2012, the second biggest drop among the 100 biggest U.S. metro areas, according to the Brookings Institution.

In 2000, almost 72 percent of Toledo-area residents aged 20-24 were employed. Twelve years later, the number had dropped below 55 percent, according to Brookings’ new study on joblessness among teens and young adults.

For Toledo-area teenagers aged 16-19, the employment rate fell nearly 14 percent between 2000 and 2012.

“It was pretty rough, and it was rough for everyone in those two age groups,” said Martha Ross, who is a fellow at the Washington-based Brookings. 

“Older workers had more success, and those with work experience and higher education had a far better chance.

“Whites tended to have greater success [at finding jobs] and that likely was tied to attainment of educational success. Overall, we found education plays a big role,” said Ms. Ross, who is a co-author of “The Plummeting Labor Market Fortunes of Teens and Young Adults,” which was released today.

The study, which scrutinized the nation’s 100 biggest metropolitan areas, found that as of 2011, the national employment rate for those ages 16-19 had dropped to 26 percent from 45 percent in 2000.

It was the lowest employment rate in the post-World War II era.

For young adults 20-24, the employment rate fell to 61 percent in 2011 from 72 percent in 2000. 

By contrast, the employment rate for workers 25-34 declined to just 74 percent in 2011 from 82 percent in 2000, and the rate for workers age 35-54 fell to 76 percent in 2011 from 81 percent.

Within both the teenager and young adult groups, blacks had the lowest employment rates — about 60 percent for teenagers and 42 percent for young adults.

The numbers for the Toledo area show that in 2000 the employment rate for teenagers 16-19 was nearly 45 percent, placing Toledo at 47th out of the top 100 metro areas.

By 2012 the rate had declined to 31 percent, although Toledo’s ranking actually rose to 34th because the job market for teenagers dropped off even more in other areas.

“Some places had drops of 25 to almost 30 percentage points,” Ms. Ross said. “It was due to the particulars of a given regional economy.”

“In California and Florida, for example, the real estate and housing market just collapsed. That had an incredibly strong ripple effect through their entire economies.”

But among those age 20-24, only the Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla., area suffered a bigger decline than Toledo, where the employment rate was 95th-worst among the 100 cities studied.

“I’m not certain, but I think that is tied to manufacturing and [Toledo’s] reliance on the auto-supply industry,” Ms. Ross said.

“Young people are typically at a disadvantage in the labor market in good times and bad times relative to experienced workers. That gets amplified when there is a huge shock to the system like the loss of millions of jobs,” Ms. Ross added.

“When there’s a recession, people have less money to spend on a discretionary basis. Entertainment, retail, restaurants, they’re all big employers of young people, and those jobs are going to disappear with fewer customers out there spending,” Ms. Ross said.

Mike Veh, work force manager at The Source of Northwest Ohio, Lucas County’s one-stop job services agency, said another factor that made the early 2000s even harder for teenagers and young adults was the number of midlevel jobs that were lost. 

Workers who were displaced from those jobs began competing for lower-paid, entry-level jobs usually filled by teenagers or young adults.

“There was higher competition for those [entry-level] jobs,” he said. 

“People laid off were going to take what they could find."

The Source has run a subsidized summer jobs program — the TANF — Temporary Assistance for Needy Families — Summer Youth Employment Program — the last few years for teenagers in low-income households.

“The number of applications that were submitted, it was huge,” Mr. Veh said.

Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins said he has been aware of the tight job market for youths in the area, and to help counter the situation his administration plans to hold a summer youth job fair on May 3. The previous administration held youth job fairs in 2012 and 2013.

“I am disappointed, but not surprised, to learn that youth employment has reportedly decreased ... ,” Mayor Collins said. 

“In many areas, including Toledo, jobs that used to be considered traditionally for teenagers are being filled by adults looking for additional income or as their primary source of income.”

Mr. Collins said youths have some employment opportunities in the summer months through the TANF program, but “I think we all agree more jobs are needed, especially for youths that may not qualify for the TANF program,” he said.

“While I encourage area companies to consider participating in our job fair, I also urge local employers to consider hiring youths when possible,” the mayor said. 

“Youth employment provides more than just a financial reward. It provides skills that will help our youths strive for future success.”

Ms. Ross of the Brookings Institution said the study recommends that employers and school systems in the area create a bridge between area teens and employers to make young people more prepared for the work force.

“It takes a lot of skills to succeed. Teamwork, communications, problem solving, and initiative is greater in the work world, and you don’t necessarily learn that sitting in a classroom,” Ms. Ross said.

Romules Durant, superintendent of Toledo Public Schools, said building more bridges with employers “is kind of our vision too.”

Mr. Durant pointed to struggling schools in South Carolina, which took advantage of the arrival of German car manufacturers to augment their school curricula and help students better fit into manufacturing.

“What it did was provide kids with apprenticeships for transitioning into that industry. You ended up with better employees who were trained and understood their industry,” the TPS superintendent said.

Mr. Durant said he would like to develop an apprenticeship model, which could help Toledo Public School students prepare for a variety of careers.

Contact Jon Chavez at: or 419-724-6128.