It seems to me that the record high unemployment rate for teenagers is largely a special case of the sharply different unemployment rates according to educational attainment that Atrios pointed out yesterday. The BLS reports the following:
The brunt of the burden of unemployment is being borne by the least-skilled members of the workforce. In part that’s because high-skill occupational categories haven’t been hammered as heavily as construction and manufacturing. But in part it’s just a downshift in the whole labor market: “Half of college graduates under age 25 are in jobs that do not require college degrees, the highest portion in at least 18 years.” In general, teenagers are going to be low on the educational attainment scale and also lacking in impressive job qualifications beyond formal education. It’s perhaps a sign of a more efficient, more flexible economy that we’re getting “better” at shifting recession-related burdens onto the low-skill people who are probably worst-positioned (in terms of savings and social capital) to deal with economic distress.