Gee, I Wonder Why Teen Unemployment Is So High?

I just opened a summer-seasonal camping business in Washington state.  Given that I mainly need relatively unskilled help landscaping and cleaning up from Memorial Day to Labor Day, one would think that this would be a natural place for high school kids to look for work.

Well, check out my new Washington business license.   This is not something unusual for me, it's the standard form issued to all businesses.  Check out the last line.

You can do anything you want, but for God sakes don't employ any high school kids over the summer.

Sorry teens.  I don't know what kind of special application is required to get the state's permission to employ you, and I don't have time to find out -- particularly since whatever additional license to hire teenagers that I need to obtain is likely to entail all kinds of onerous special rules and reporting requirements.

Update:  I get asked this a lot when I post such business licenses.  "Foreign Profit Corporation" does not mean that I am based in Sri Lanka, "foreign" in this context means that my original corporate registration is in another state.

I will give kudos to WA state on one dimension -- most states will issue me separate numbers for my withholding account, my sales tax account, my workers comp account, my unemployment account, my secretary of state registration, etc.  WA issues a single number for everything.


  1. Aaron:

    I wonder where that is...
    *type* >tapclick<
    Hmm...Google maps says...what? It's right next to my house?!?
    I gotta get out more...

  2. Ted Rado:

    I would think that the function of govenment should be to facilitate business activity. Wrong! The idea seems to be to throw as many tacks in the road as possible. I have no idea what the rationale is behind this approach. It seems like we have met the enemy and he is us!

  3. MJ:

    I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that unions had something to do with this.

  4. Rocky:

    I'm surprised this is the only license that was needed. You should see the grocery list of license I have to do business in Southern Ca. We are at 20 and counting depending on which city in the South bay we are working in. I believe my 2012 business license costs to date are at 3200.00. By the way, I also can't legally higher anyone under 18.

  5. me:

    Oh, right next door. I might come visit :)

    That said - it occurs to me that it might be time to change careers and found a business helping businesses get business licenses?

  6. Matt:


    They will never issue you a business license for that. :-)

    The process was deliberatly made as difficult as possible and they will do everything in their power to shut down anyone trying to make it easier.

  7. hanmeng:

    It's for the children! Don't tell us you want to engage in child labor!

  8. Steve Burrows:

    Welcome to the Evergreen State! Never heard of that park, will stop by next time I'm out that way. Was in the area a couple of weeks ago. The state may be bad, but some of the cities and counties can take it to the next level, especially King county and Seattle.

  9. Vic Kelley:

    One option would be to do business without a license. Hire teens - or others - off the books. Or classify them as independent contractors. I'm not trying to aggravate or be a smart-aleck. Just know from experience that some people live long happy lives without submitting to government interference. I know there are consequences for everything we do - if one gets caught.

  10. W. C. Taqiyya:

    That's what I thought the reason was. Business owners too greedy and insensitive to fill out all the right forms, provide transportation, training, supervision, food, housing and living wages. Shame on you Coyote.

  11. IGotBupkis, Poking Fun At President Downgrade For 4 Years and Counting...:

    >>>>WA issues a single number for everything.

    Your business Social Security number, essentially.

    >>>> That said – it occurs to me that it might be time to change careers and found a business helping businesses get business licenses?

    Much more effective would be to found a business shooting excess government bureaucrats.

    Not quite as legal, if you insist on getting the permits required for your suggestion.

    >>>> Business owners too greedy and insensitive to fill out all the right forms, provide transportation, training, supervision, food, housing and living wages.

    You forgot burping. Clearly they need that until they're 18, too...

  12. Dan:

    I apologize that my state makes educating the next generation in the fine art of work so difficult. When students leave HS they do not even have a fighting chance. They have no work ethic, they do not know the ins and outs of everyday work, they don't even have the experience to bring back to the classroom for motivation to do better. I got an education because I had no desire to wash dishes as an adult:)

  13. Scott:

    Welcome to Washington! Based on the horror stories I've heard about our Business & Occupation tax, I'm a bit surprised you're willing to expand here, but glad to see it nonetheless. I'm also glad to see some other Washingtonians reading Coyote!

  14. el coronado:

    With all the decades of TV & movie propaganda showing lawyers as 'fighting for what's right'; with all the last 70 years of hundreds of thousands of useless scummy lawyers beshat upon the country with not enough to do; with (presumably) at least a few teenagers not yet brain-dead gamer slugs.....

    I really can't believe a young ball of fire hasn't hooked up with one of 'em to sue the state over this crap. "You're depriving me a chance to a) make money b) gain valuable work experience c) possibly discover my life's work based on....what law, exactly?" How is a business license that says 'can't hire teenagers' NOT discriminatory??

  15. caseyboy:

    Terrible law. I heard recently that 7 out of 10 teens looking for summer work are unable to find it (nationwide statistic). The minimum wage is the key driver in that statistic, but it is interesting that states like WA choose to make it even harder for young people. Can't work on the farm, can't work at parks, what's next? When Mayor "Nanny" Bloomberg closes those fatty fast food joints in NYC, teens won't even be able to flip burgers.

  16. Marko:

    Before I was 18, I'd worked in a bakery (harder than you'd think) a commercial greenhouse (great job, they kept me on the job during school) and a summer at an auto parts wholesaler, where I worked side-by-side with adult men. This is where I learned about life and the real worlld. High school was wasted on me.

    Seattle, WA

  17. Marko:

    I forgot to add: Washington also has the highest minimum wage in the country. So even if it was legal to hire, you wouldn't be able to afford it.

  18. Bruce:

    A quick search of the Washington State website found that they require an additional permit to hire minors.

  19. Pedro:

    Have licencing requirements changed a lot in the last 4 years? If not, then this seems like a plausible partial explanation for why teen unemployment is so high in general, but not an explanation for why it's been so high lately.

  20. tomw:

    Wait 'til they come up with the requirement for a license to apply for work.
    You can't apply without a license... Oh, wait. They have. It's called a Social Security Card {not valid for identification}, which every employee must have before being 'allowed' to work.
    Gotta ask how does the Federal Government 'minimum wage' law apply to someone operating a rake or hoe in the middle of a park?
    At 17 I ran a Sunoco, by myself, from 6PM until closing at midnight. I was paid $.75/hr, even when being called in to do tune-ups when the 'real' mechanic would call in Budweiser or Jim Beam, and when the station changed hands, I demanded{HA!!!} a whole big $1.25 per hour. To run the place.
    That owner took out the taxes when he finally paid me, a month or so down the road, and claimed he had only taken out SocSec on the W2 form. IRS followed up for a while, but eventually left me alone, when I claimed he had taken out the twenty bucks or so of tax on my return.
    Point? Edjumucashun. I learned about employers, how they will use ignorant kids, me, and some of what I had to do to look out for myself.
    Can't believe I wasn't hit by a stickup crew...

  21. Ted Rado:

    What a horrible contrast with my own youth. I got my firast job in a Kroger store at age 13. After that, I set pins in a bowling alley (pins flying by my head!), delivered newspapers, caddied at the golf course, etc. By the time i got out of university, I had 7-8 years of work experience. I learned to deal with bosses, work hard, manage my money (35c per hour), and all the other good stuff one learns from working.

    Nowadays, child labor laws, OSHA, and our wonderful lawyers have kiboshed all that. In addition, as Warren points out, the regs, permits, and tons of red tape have made employing teenagers all but impossible. The system seems designed to wreck young peoples' job opportunities, make things impossible for prospective employers, and in every way impede economic activity. I yearn for my youthful days in the 1940's!!

    To say that we have made progress in the area of youth employment in the past 70 years is a huge joke. Kids were infinitely better off then than now in terms of job opportunities and gaining work experience. Someone self anointed do-gooders ought to be shot for this.

  22. Mark2:

    @Bruce, at least they don't require a fee for the minor permit license.

  23. me:

    @IGotBupkis: ... "excess government bureaucrats" - wait, is there any other kind? ;)

  24. dan:

    If you wait a while..Obama dictates that young illegals will be issued a work may not need to register them since the president wants them to be employed...he may call you after hearing about your problem...hang in there things and change are starting to take root...

  25. perlhaqr:

    Apparently it wouldn't work anyway. According to that website Bruce linked, minors can't handle power tools. So, no lawnmowers or weedwhackers or whatever. (Even though somehow I survived a youth of mowing lawns from when I was 8 years old.) So... unless you wanted to hire enough teens to manually do all that landscaping, you'd be SOL anyway.

    Man, talk about pricing kids out of the fucking market. "You must pay them at least $10 an hour, and they can't be allowed to get anywhere near as much work done as an adult."

  26. IGotBupkis, Purveyor of Fine Cynicism Since 2008:

    >>>> @IGotBupkis: … “excess government bureaucrats” – wait, is there any other kind?

    @me: I'm a libertarian. I granted the notion that there is SOME need for government bureaucrats. Ideally there should be about 1% of the current count on the federal level. Probably 10-15% of the current count on the state level. And roughly 175% too many on the local level, if you exclude various emergency personnel.

  27. Not Sure:

    If you let kids work, they might just get the crazy idea that providing for themselves is the way things ought to be instead of depending on the government to give them stuff.

  28. me:

    @IGotBupkis: not many things I believe in, but to this I say: Amen! :)

  29. jackie:

    Why do I love your opinion pieces in the WSJ and your blog, but find it so difficult to sympathize with you? Your business model is based on the premise that people like you can make government work through outsourcing, and then when the same government throws a few roadblocks in the way you get all indignant. But I especially like your argument in this case which boils down to "it's for the children" Ha! Where have we heard THAT before?

  30. Sam L.:

    Well, at least they told you right up front you shouldn't bother to try, rather than string you along for months and months trapped in the gumming anthill.

  31. Goober:

    Huh. Small world. I used to stay in Orondo and Lincoln Rock all the time. Since I moved to Spokane (leaving wet, moldy Seattle in my wake, hopefully permanently) I've taken to using camp sites that are more local. But you can bet that knowing you own this one, I'll be going back now.

  32. Gina:

    I agree with Ted Rado
    My first job was at the library shelving books when I was in 7th grade. That was in 1960 and they paid me 40 cents/hour. I loved it. Pretty soon I was repairing book bindings and recommending new titles to the ladies who read mysteries. By the time I graduated from high school I had 6 years experience including working for a florist and cashiering in a super store. I worked through both under and graduate school. Whoa. It's like I've never not worked. How great is that?!
    I really feel sorry for kids today. No amount of parent directed activities can give a person the challenge and confidence of getting and keeping a job on their own.
    I suppose the laws against teens working has to do with keeping those jobs for unskilled adults. I wonder who's behind that?

  33. jackie:

    I'm all for free markets and allowing child labor, within certain guidelines, but wonder about the nature of Mr. Meyer's stated beliefs in libertarianism while at the same time running a business almost entirely dependent on getting franchises from government.
    An interesting take on this is now up at zerohedge in an article from the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada.

    The relevant paragraph about corporatism:

    "There is actually another, more accurate term for public-private partnerships. It’s called fascism; plain and simple. Private business may act as an administrator but the state still pulls the reigns. From a political perspective, public-private partnerships are quite ingenious. Politicians remain in control while convincing voters they believe in the efficiency of a robust private sector. And when issues arise over the performance of a service, whatever private firm granted the monopolistic privilege of delivery can be treated like a scapegoat despite having to operate within government established guidelines. The state escapes criticism as the public ignorantly clamors for more protection from those evil hearted businessmen. To the ruling establishment, public-private partnerships are “heads I win, tails you lose.”"