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Report on the Youth Labor Force Home

Report on the Youth Labor Force

Current Population Survey
Employment Standards Administration
National Longitudinal Survey
Safety and Health Statistics
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy
BLS Publications

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction (PDF 13K)
Chapter 2. Child Labor Laws and Enforcement (PDF 47K)
Chapter 3. A Detailed Look at Employment of Youths Aged 12 to 15 (PDF 68K)
Chapter 4. Trends in Youth Employment: Data from the Current Population Survey (PDF 100K)
Chapter 5. Youth Employment in Agriculture (PDF 31K)
Chapter 6. Occupational Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities (PDF 54K)
Chapter 7. The Relationship of Youth Employment to Future Educational Attainment and Labor Market Experience (PDF 43K)

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The Report on the Youth Labor Force is presented on this website in Adobe PDF format. The 76-page report is divided into sections on this site to make it more usable. Note that the report was revised in November 2000 to correct minor errors that appeared in the original version.

Single copies of the revised print version of Report on the Youth Labor Force are available. To obtain a copy, send e-mail to blsdata_staff@bls.gov with your mailing address included in your request; mail a request to the Office of Publications and Special Studies, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington, D.C., 20212; or call 202-691-5200.

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I remember my first job—I worked as a summer camp counselor and taught young campers how to tap dance. It was a lot of fun. I worked most summers in my teen years and through college. I still use what I learned from those jobs every day as Secretary of Labor. I truly value those experiences and I’m an avid supporter of jobs for young workers.

I know that parents also understand how important early work experiences are. They know intuitively what this report suggests—that teenagers who deliver newspapers, bag groceries, or serve hamburgers in their after-school jobs are often more likely to go to college and have better lifelong careers. And make more money, too.

Employers, parents, schools, and government must continue to support positive work experiences for our youngest workers—but with two critical caveats: they must be safe work experiences and work should never interfere with school.

We must be especially diligent in ensuring that our most vulnerable young workers, the children of migrant farm workers, are protected through strict enforcement of child labor laws in the fields. And they must be given every opportunity to get a good education.

I welcome this report. It provides the information we need to make wise policy decisions. Protecting our youngest workers is vital to our national interest. They should have the opportunity to experience the rewards and dignity of work without jeopardizing their education, their health, or their lives.

U.S. Department of Labor


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This Report on the Youth Labor Force provides a detailed, overall look at youth labor in the United States, including regulations on child labor, current work experience of youth and how it has changed over time, and the outcomes of this experience. It draws on a variety of Department of Labor data sources in developing this picture.

The report was prepared under the overall direction of Marilyn Manser, an associate commissioner with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), who also was responsible for the introduction. The second chapter describes the history of child labor in the United States, and details the current Federal and State regulations covering child labor. It was written by Art Kerschner, Jr., leader, Child Labor and Special Employment Team, with the Labor Department’s Employment Standards Administration. The third chapter, contributed by Donna Rothstein, a research economist at BLS, and Diane Herz, an economist also at BLS, provides a detailed current look at the work experiences of youth aged 15 and under. The fourth chapter examines the current employment and unemployment status of youth aged 15 to 17, and looks at how this youth employment and un-employment has changed over the past 20 years. It was prepared by Diane Herz and Karen Kosanovich, also an economist with BLS. The appendix to chapter 4, which compares results from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and the Current Population Survey, was written by Donna Rothstein and Diane Herz. The fifth chapter takes a separate look at youth employment in agriculture, a sector in which young workers have characteristics that are, on average, different from those of their counterparts in other industries and face different regulations. It was prepared by Ruth Samardick, survey statistician with the Labor Department’s Assistant Secretary for Policy; Susan M. Gabbard, a senior associate with Aguirre International; and Melissa A. Lewis, a research associate also with Aguirre International. The sixth chapter, written by Anthony Barkume, research economist with BLS, addresses the health and safety of young workers. The final chapter, contributed by Donna Rothstein and Marilyn Manser, provides data on the relationship between work intensity at ages 16 and 17 and later college attendance and the amount of work experience from ages 18 through 30. It also reviews the extensive research literature on the effect of working while young on later educational and labor market outcomes.

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E-Mail: blsdata_staff@bls.gov
Last Updated: April 4, 2001