Fewer Minnesota teens are working

And that’s a problem.

Minnesota’s Labor Force Participation rate, at 69.7 percent in 2018, was the third highest in the country after the District of Columbia and Nebraska. It is forecast to fall to 64.6 percent by 2035. Minnesota’s participation rate is already down from a peak of 76.1 percent in 2001.

This trend is also forecast both nationally and across the developed world as populations age. But aging populations is not the whole story. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 1999 and 2018 the participation rate for those aged 16 to 19 in Minnesota fell by 19.1 percentage points. By contrast, since 1999, the participation rate of those aged 55 to 64 has risen by 9.6 percentage points, and it is up by 4.4 percentage points for those aged over 65.

These trends are forecast to continue. According to the Minnesota State Demographic Center, the participation rate for 16 to 19-year-olds is forecast to fall by nine percentage points between 2020 and 2045, while it will rise for every age group above 45.

Outside of an aging population, this is a problem for Minnesota’s younger workers themselves. As Greta Kaul wrote for MinnPost, “Teens don’t just benefit from cash in their pockets every pay period when they work. Research has found working is good for teens long-term—to a point.”

A 2014 study in Research in the Sociology of Work found that 15-yearolds who worked year-round were more likely to have jobs at ages 17 to 21. Teen workers also had higher incomes a few years later, at ages 17 to 25.

Rarely will you make a living doing what you do in your very first job, like those pizza making skills that will soon rust away. But the soft skills you pick up, “things like the ability to resolve conflicts at work, knowing how to conduct yourself as a professional in the workplace,” according to Joe Mahon, regional economist with the Minneapolis Federal Reserve, will stand you in good stead throughout your working life. The longer Minnesota workers wait to start accumulating these skills, the bigger disadvantage they will have.