2015 July Teen Job Update: Summer Hiring Fell, But Employment at Highest Level Since 2009

Fewer teenagers were added to payrolls this summer, but overall employment among 16- to 19-year-olds still managed to reach the highest level in six years, according to a new analysis of government data.

Employment among teens increased by 1,160,000 during the three-month summer hiring season that stretches from May through July. The employment gain was 11 percent lower than 2014, when 1,297,000 teenagers were added to summer payrolls, according to global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., which analyzed the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While summer hiring declined, the total number of employed 16- to 19-year-olds reached 5,696,000 in July, which is the highest number of working teenagers since 2009, when 5,962,000 teenagers were employed during the peak employment month of July.

“There was increased hiring of teenagers throughout the year, particularly just before the holidays and then again in the spring before school ended. This suggests that more seasonal jobs in retail, entertainment and leisure, and food service are being taken by teens, which could bode well for their employment figures going forward,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Even with the recent gains, employment among 16- to 19-year-olds may never again reach the peak seen in 1978, when more than 10 million teens were working in July. At that time, however, the participation rate among teens stood at 72 percent, compared to a current level of 41 percent.

“Fewer teenagers are seeking employment opportunities, most of them by choice. More are focused on academics, volunteering or jobs that fly under the radar of most employment measures,” said Challenger.

“Additionally, a small but growing percentage of school districts are beginning to experiment with year-round schedules that provide more frequent, but shorter breaks throughout the year. Teens on these schedules do not have the long summer breaks that might allow them to work at the neighborhood pool or a summer camp,” he added.

Unfortunately, the latest available data is from the 2006-2007 school year. However, even nine years ago, there were 3,000 K-12 schools in 46 states that had shifted to a year-round schedule, according to the National Association for Year-Round Education. That accounted for more than 2 million students, at the time, a figure that is likely to have grown over the last nine years.

“The shrinking participation rate is somewhat worrisome, because many studies have shown that holding a job during the teen years significantly improves one’s earning power later in life. Teenagers who are volunteering or working odd jobs will still reap the benefits associated with traditional employment; mainly learning the importance of accountability, the value of hard work, and satisfaction of accomplishment,” said Challenger.