Teenagers used to find summer jobs to stay active, earn some money for clothes or cars, and perhaps save a little for college. As of June 2017, the labor market shows that fewer and fewer teen workers are landing summer employment. There are several reasons for this, and they all point to a shift in the way Americans view work.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate in May 2017 is the lowest it's been since 2001. That means there are plenty of summer jobs for teenagers, even though the teen unemployment rate hovers close to 14 percent, compared to 4.3 percent across all workers.
The hiring boom for the summer of 2017 continues due to the fact that as many as 41 percent of companies plan to hire seasonal help. That's up from 29 percent in 2016. Although the labor market appears rosy for teenagers looking for summer jobs, statistics show that people in this age group simply aren't looking for work like they used to in past years.
In July 2016, as many as 43 percent of teens were looking for work. That number was down 10 percent from July 2006. Part of the reason for this decline was the recession in 2007, when unemployment rose and the job market was tight. Teenagers didn't go back to work after that.
Reasons for a Lack of Teen Workers
Experts speculate as to why teenagers fled the workplace and didn't come back. The Great Recession saw many older Americans return to work because their retirement funds dried up. Older people may continue to work beyond age 65 to make ends meet in 2017, and that may squeeze out teenagers who want summer jobs. Immigrant workers may also keep teens from a job. However, data from the Department of Labor shows a more important reason why teenagers aren't flocking to jobs during the summer.
Younger people are studying rather than working. School districts make the school year longer, and summer school programs are more prevalent in 2017 than they were 20 years before. Summer enrichment programs help teenagers prepare for college, which is vitally important since more and more companies require college degrees for entry-level hires.
Teens who study more are less well-rounded, and college admissions offices recognize that. People who just study may not turn into the best college graduates. Further, younger workers are more business savvy in 2017, thanks in part to the internet, online training courses, YouTube and opportunities to create business income while staying at home. Teens who grew up on technology at a young age leverage these tools into moneymaking operations rather than entering the traditional workforce. Rather than finding summer jobs, younger people might attend coding camps or business leadership academies to learn how to become entrepreneurs instead of employees.
Summer jobs aren't going away. Fast food restaurants, summer recreational programs and summer camps all need workers. It usually depends on the priorities of teens as to what opportunities suit them best. Working is a great experience for later in life, but teens may want better college prospects for now.
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