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“When we’re looking at teens, Utah has a higher-than-average labor force participation rate,” she said. That was true before the recession, at the height of the recession, and during the current period of recovery and growth. In fact, the Brookings report ranks the Salt Lake metro area at No. 4 in the country for teen and young adult employment.
Mayne also pointed out that Utah has a very youthful population overall, so the state has a relatively large volume of teens and young adults. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 31 percent of Utah’s population is under the age of 18, compared to a national average of 23.5 percent.
“It’s interesting, because we always rank high in terms of teen labor participation, yet we have such a high volume of teens,” she said.
Education seems key to getting a toehold in the labor market. The Brookings report illustrates this by examining underutilized workers—those who are looking for jobs, who want work but are not actively looking for it, and those who have part-time employment but would prefer full-time work.
Nationally, in 2011, the underutilization rate for young adult high school dropouts was 48 percent. The rate for high school graduates was 37 percent, while it was 24 percent for those with an Associate’s degree. Young adults with a Bachelor’s degree fared the best, with an underutilization rate of 18 percent.