Every summer there are fewer teen workers employed in summer jobs.
Teen workers are getting less common. Despite the needs of employers, summer jobs are less likely to be filled by teens. Whatever the reason for this, the results will not be pretty. Getting a job as a teen often teaches him or her to be a better worker. Without that summer job, the teen remains a stranger to the challenges of the workplace. It’s a lost educational opportunity.
How might our future economy be affected by this missing form of job training?
Here’s the Bloomberg headline: “Why Aren’t American Teenagers Working Anymore?”
A CareerBuilder survey of 2,587 employers released last month found that 41 percent were planning to hire seasonal workers for the summer, up from 29 percent last year.
But the unemployment rate measures joblessness only among people who are actively looking for work. And many American teens aren’t.
For Baby Boomers and Generation X, the summer job was a rite of passage. Today’s teenagers have other priorities. Teens are likeliest to be working in July, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that’s not seasonally adjusted. In July of last year, 43 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds were either working or looking for a job. That’s 10 points lower than in July 2006. In 1988 and 1989, the July labor force participation rate for teenagers nearly hit 70 percent.
Whether you’re looking at summer jobs or at teen employment year-round, the work trends for teenagers show a clear pattern over the last three decades. When recessions hit, in the early 1990s, early 2000s, and from 2007 to 2009, teen labor participation rates plunge. As the economy recovers, though, teen labor doesn’t bounce back. The BLS expects the teen labor force participation rate to drop below 27 percent in 2024, or 30 points lower than the peak seasonally adjusted rate in 1989.
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