More Jobs Likely Available for Teens This Summer

By SHRM Online staff Apr 12, 2013
Continued employment gains in lower-skilled, lower-paying hourly wage categories are expected to benefit teenagers seeking jobs this summer, according to a new outlook released April 11, 2013, by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

Although job-seeking teens are likely to face competition from recent college graduates, as well as from those at the opposite end of the age spectrum, employment gains for 16- to 19-year-olds in May, June and July should surpass last year’s levels, Challenger reports.

Last year, the number of working 16- to 19-year-olds rose by nearly 1.4 million in May, June and July, according to nonseasonally adjusted data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That marked a 29 percent improvement over 2011, when 1,087,000 teens found summer jobs. In 2010 only 960,000 teens were added to payrolls—the fewest since 1949, government data show.

Summer Employment Gains for 16- to 19-Year-Olds, 2008-2012

Year Summer Jobs Gained Change from Prior Year



2010 960,000-17.5%



Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. (with nonseasonally adjusted data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

“Last year’s teen summer job market was the strongest since 2007, when a pre-recession economy added nearly 1.7 million 16- to 19-year-olds to employer payrolls,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, in a media statement. “There is a chance we could reach that level again in 2013, not necessarily because the economy is booming but because the types of employers that typically seek out teens are doing better.”

The latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show increased employment in the retail sector, particularly among food stores, clothing and accessory stores, and sporting-goods, hobby, book and music stores.

Employers in leisure and hospitality also appear to be expanding. The most recent government report on hiring and job openings showed that at the end of February there were 378,000 vacancies in retail and 510,000 vacancies in leisure and hospitality, including 458,000 opportunities in accommodation and food services.

“Earlier this year both Home Depot and Lowes announced they would be adding 80,000 and 45,000 seasonal workers, respectively,” said Challenger. “These openings, as well as those at shopping malls, clothing stores, amusement parks, day camps, etc., are ripe opportunities for teenagers hoping to earn some money this summer. Moreover, an improving housing market could mean that more homeowners plan home-improvement and landscaping projects this spring and summer after postponing such projects during the downturn. This could mean job openings with landscaping companies and contractors.”

But it’s questionable whether more teens will actually pursue them. Youth unemployment remains high, with about one-quarter of teenagers in the labor force unable to find jobs.

However, less than one-third of the nation’s 16,840,000 noninstitutionalized 16- to 19-year-olds are working or even looking for work. A March labor force participation rate of 31.5 percent is up only slightly from the record low of 30.8 percent, recorded in January 2012.

While some teens dropped out of the workforce because of frustration or discouragement, the vast majority appear to be not participating by choice. Of the average 11,162,000 adolescents not in the labor force in 2012, an average of just 1,167,000 indicated they wanted a job.

“Even with more teenagers dropping out of the labor force, competition for jobs will remain fierce,” Challenger said. “Right now, there are more than 1.2 million unemployed 16- to 19-year-olds who are looking for work. There are probably an additional 1.1 to 1.2 million who have stopped looking for work, but still want a job.”

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