Number of Working Teens Sags Despite Plenty of Opportunities

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The number of teenagers who are expected to find jobs this summer is forecast to be in line with the 1.288 million teens who found jobs in the summer of 2017. Last year’s total was down 3.8% year over year and down more than 25% compared to teens with summer jobs in 2006, when 1.734 million had summer jobs.

Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas published the forecast for the summer of 2018 Monday morning, noting that rather than working during the summer, more teens concentrate on education, family obligations and extracurricular activities.

Last summer, 1.023 million teens found jobs in the month of June, the most since 2007, but the July total was a meager 190,000, the lowest July total on record.

Andrew Challenger, vice-president at Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said:

Some of these declines could be due to the pivot in retail, which is leading to thousands of store closures. In March, Toys”R”Us, a large employer of teens, announced they were closing all of their U.S. stores. Since January 2017, Challenger has tracked over 5,000 announced closures of retail locations

However, teen employment has been falling steadily since the 90s and especially since the recession. The teen participation rate in the summer months has hovered near 40 percent since 2009, well below the highs of the 70s, 80s, and 90s at near or over 60 percent.

Given the low U.S. unemployment rate, jobs would appear to be plentiful for teens seeking work this summer. The experience teen workers get in interacting with colleagues can be attractive to employers once these young workers move into the full-time job market.

Jobs that require more analytical and social (soft) skills have also seen quicker pay increases. Challenger, Gray cites a Pew Research Center study that compared wages for these jobs with wages for jobs that require manual labor:

From 1990 to 2015, the average hourly wage for occupations requiring higher levels of analytical skills rose from $23 to $27, while the mean hourly wage for occupations requiring higher levels of social skills rose from $22 to $26. That is compared to an increase from $16 to $18 for jobs requiring average or above average physical skills in the same time period.

There should be plenty of jobs available, and there are lots of teens out there to fill them. The trick is to get the two together in big numbers.