Recession hits male teens harder than females

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Gender mattered during this recession.

The downturn, the worst since the Great Depression, hit men harder than women, a fact that has been widely discussed.

What is less well known is that the recession hit male teens harder than female teens. And economists are still trying to sort out the reasons.

Males ages 16 to 19 have an unemployment rate of 29.3 percent. That compares with a 21.4 percent rate for females of the same ages, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

During the national recession, which began in December 2007, the male teen jobless rate peaked at 30.9 percent in December 2009. By contrast, the peak for girls was 24 percent, reached in October.

There are two possible explanations for the difference.

Pearl Kamer, chief economist for the Long Island Association, said part of the reason could be that more male teens than females typically are in the workforce - either holding jobs or seeking them.

"A higher male participation rate in this economy would result in a higher unemployment rate," she said.

Heidi Shierholz, a labor market economist for the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., said the lopsided teen unemployment rates also suggest that more females than males have left the labor force.

When laid-off employees aren't actively looking for work, they fall into the discouraged-worker category and aren't included in unemployment rate numbers.

"That's one of the reasons [the female teen] unemployment rates look better," she said.

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