June 2015 Teen Employment Update: Gains Fall in June, But Overall Employment at 6-Year High

While the latest employment data show that summer job gains among teenagers were lower than a year ago, overall employment for this population is at its highest level since 2009. The seemingly contradictory data suggest that teenagers are finding employment throughout the year and are no longer relegated to summer jobs.

Employment among 16- to 19-year-olds increased by 609,000 in June, according to the latest non-seasonally adjusted data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. An analysis of the data by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., found that the June job gains were 8.0 percent lower than the same month a year ago, when 661,000 teens found employment.

Through the first two-thirds of the three-month summer hiring period, job gains by teens total 791,000, which is 11 percent fewer than the 878,000 16- to 19-year-olds joining the workforce in May and June last year.

However, despite the decline in summer job gains, overall teen employment reached 5,327,000 in June. That is the highest June employment level for this age group since 2009, when 5,608,000 teenagers were employed.

“Teenagers are finding jobs at different times of the year now. Many were able to take advantage of holiday hiring last fall, and it appears that more of these teens are holding onto these jobs,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

For example, teen employment increased by 316,000 last October. That represents the biggest October employment gain for teens since 1977. Some of those jobs were lost in subsequent months, as seasonal job holders were dismissed after the holidays.

Despite some contraction following the holidays, overall teen employment experienced net gains of 215,000 during the seven-month stretch from last October through April. The same period from 2013 into 2014 saw teen employment decline by 120,000.

“It appears that teens may be taking back some of the territory they lost to older job seekers in recent years. Opportunities in industries such as retail, food service, and entertainment and leisure are more plentiful. Even with the recent gains, though, teen employment is about half of what it was at its height in the late 1970s. There is little chance that we will see a return to those levels, as more and more teens opt of the labor force entirely,” said Challenger.

Currently, the teen participation rate is around 41 percent, a figure that may increase slightly in July, as teen employment reaches its annual peak. In contrast, the participation rate among 16- to 19-year-olds reached as high as 72 percent in July 1978. The July average from 1990 through 1999 was 64.8 percent.

“More teens are abandoning the traditional summer job market for academics, volunteer opportunities or jobs that fall under the radar of standard employment measures. An increasing number maybe babysitting or taking on odd jobs for neighbors. Some are trying to design mobile apps to sell to iPhone and Android users,” said Challenger.