June 6, 2011

CBS Reporter Whitaker Invokes ‘Long, Hot Summer’ Cliche in Covering Teen Unemployment, Ignores Minimum-Wage Impact

http://i739.photobucket.com/albums/xx40/mmatters/BillWhitakerCBSFor those too young to remember, invoking a “long, hot summer” was a favorite pastime of the establishment press and so-called “civil rights leaders” after the race riots of the 1960s (example here). The message: Get that federal money flowing to us, or there will be violence in the streets.

At CBS News, reporter Bill Whitaker wrapped his coverage of the teen unemployment situation as follows: “For many teens with no jobs and no money, it could be one long, hot summer.” Perhaps Whitaker was unaware of how loaded those words once were (and still may be). But he shouldn’t get a pass for failing to mention three minimum-wage increases enacted late last decade as potential contributors to the 2007-2010 rise in teen unemployment. Whitaker also mentioned “cuts in federal funding” as affecting summer jobs programs, but “somehow” forgot to tell readers and viewers that the funding consisted of so-called “stimulus” dollars that everyone knew was going to go away (see the reference to “the end of Recovery Act funding that might have helped create some public jobs” at this link). Whitaker’s omission leaves an implication that meanies in the current Congress must have done something to reduce funding, which isn’t so.

Here are excerpts from CBS’s Saturday coverage, most of which aired on the Evening News (video is here; bolds are mine):

Summer job bummer: Teen unemployment 24 percent
Nationwide unemployment is around 9 percent right now, but one in four 16- to 19-year-olds can’t find work

The latest numbers show the unemployment rate stands at 9.1 percent, with the pace of job growth slowing. When it comes to new jobs, 70 percent of those are coming from small businesses, but many of them are struggling just to hang on.

Small businesses are often responsible for filling the summer job needs of America’s teenagers. CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker reports that many 16- to 19-year-olds are finding the going rough when it comes to finding work once school is out.

… The Labor Department says the unemployment rate for those aged 16 to 19 last month was more than 24 percent. Compare that to May of 2000, when the rate was less than 13 percent.

… The latest figures show California’s unemployment rate among teenagers is more than 34 percent, which is nearly triple the state’s overall unemployment rate of 11.9 percent. In cities such as Irvine, California, job fairs have been canceled because few companies have agreed to participate.

… Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, it’s not just the private sector turning young applicants away. In the past, L.A. teens — especially those in low-income neighborhoods — could count on getting summer jobs at city parks and pools. But this year, cuts in federal funding are putting a damper on those summer plans.

Last summer, Los Angeles hired 16,000 young people. This summer, only 6,000 will land a city job. Youth counselors are concerned.

“We’re going to have thousands and thousands of students who are going to be on the streets without an activity to do,” says Ozzie Lopez, executive director of the Youth Opportunity Movement.

For many teens with no jobs and no money, it could be one long, hot summer.

In 2007, in one of the Democratic Congress’s first official acts, “The minimum wage increased in three $0.70 increments–to $5.85 in July, 2007, $6.55 in July, 2008, and to $7.25 in July 2009.” These increases deserve at least some of the blame for the increase in average teen unemployment from 15.7% in 2007, to 18.7% in 2008, to 24.3% in 2009. Note that things got only marginally worse (25.9%) in 2010, the first year in four that the federal minimum wage wasn’t increased, and that the seasonally adjusted rate so far this year has come down slightly to an average of 24.7%. By contrast, the average teen unemployment rate during 1981 and 1982, a period during which the overall unemployment rate hit 10.8%, was 22.8%, in an era when the percentage of teens participating in the workforce was far higher.

The network does deserve credit for pointing out the potential of teen entrepreneurship in material I did not excerpt, but that hardly makes up for the glaring omissions previously noted.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.



  1. [...] Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com [...]

    Pingback by CBS Reporter Invokes ‘Long, Hot Summer’ Cliche in Covering Teen Unemployment, Ignores Minimum-Wage Impact « PA Pundits – International — June 6, 2011 @ 6:02 am

  2. It’s always amazing to me that people can’t see that a minimum wage creates unemployment, especially in the young or un/under trained. It took one example of a supply/demand curve by my macro econ professor about 15 yrs ago to show what would happen as you increase the MW. He was spot on (and an old-style liberal- so he actually had sense). It’d be one thing if we had a rational discussion about minimum wage and it’s trade offs (higher income for the newly employed, or unskilled vs higher overall unemployment and probably increases in overall cost of goods/services), and maybe there’s a break even point where the benefits of a minimum wage balance or even outweigh the negatives, but so far, I’ve not seen it, and it’s been solely a political issue.

    Comment by Christopher — June 6, 2011 @ 12:08 pm

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