Teen Summer Job Outlook: Teen Employment Expected to Rise in Tight Labor Market

With the end of the school year fast approaching, many teenagers across the country are considering summer employment. While just 35% of teens aged 16-19 participated in the labor market last year, global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. predicts job opportunities could increase around 5% this year and the teen participation rate could rise as well, according its annual outlook released Tuesday.

Last summer saw 1,388,000 jobs gained by teens, 7.8% higher than the 1,288,000 jobs gained by teenagers in the summer of 2017. This was the highest number of teen jobs gained since 2012, when 1,397,000 jobs were added.

“Teens have not participated in the job market at the same rate they did since their peak work years in the 1970s. In fact, teen participation has dropped since the recovery in 2009, when 37.5% of teens were in the labor force,” said Andrew Challenger, Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

While the teen participation rate hovers near 35%, the sheer number of opportunities, as well as student desire to gain employment experience, may bring more teens back into the labor force.

“Employers value work experience, in some cases, more than education. The summer job for teens is incredibly valuable in showing future employers they are able to work in a professional setting,” said Challenger.


While the traditional retail job may be harder to get for many teens, as thousands of brick-and-mortar store closures have occurred over the last few years, the stronger-than-expected March jobs report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicated a 33% increase in opportunities in Leisure and Hospitality companies. For instance, the BLS report found that food services and drinking places added 27,000 jobs in March.

“Companies in almost all sectors are struggling to find talent. While adults took the place of many teens during the recession and recovery years, we’re now seeing those opportunities going back to teen workers,” said Challenger.

The March jobs report also showed the unemployment rate for teen workers dropped 0.6% from last March, to 12.8%.

In addition to the desire to gain work experience in summer jobs, more teens may choose to work between high school and college as they decide what field they want to pursue. The so-called “gap year” is becoming increasingly popular, especially with the high cost of post-secondary education.

In fact, according to the American Gap Association, an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 teens take a gap year after high school, and that number was an increase of 20% from 2015. President Barack Obama’s daughter Malia brought attention to the growing trend with her decision to suspend college for a year in 2017.

Meanwhile, “Signing Days” at many high schools traditionally highlight student athletes who state their intention to attend post-secondary institutions in the fall. However, Henrico County, Virginia decided to recognize students who chose jobs after high school in the same way they recognized students who chose college after high school.

According to Henrico County’s Facebook post on the subject, "Students and representatives of their future employers both signed letters of intent outlining what students must do before and during employment, what the employer will provide in pay and training, and an estimate of the position’s value."

“For teens seeking summer employment, June is traditionally the most popular month for teen hiring, with 951,000 teens finding employment last year. However, teens who want to find work for the summer would be wise to start readying their resumes and applications now,” said Challenger.

"Teens should reach out to their networks – friends, parents, instructors, coaches, and friends’ parents – to inquire about potential opportunities. They should also seek out the managers of places they frequent to see if they are hiring.

"Create a resume that includes extra-curricular activities, volunteer experience, or any other information that would show an employer the teen is able to work as part of a team, is a self-starter, or can manage a project.

“Teens can also look outside the norm for seasonal employment. In a period of expansion, offices will need administrative staff who can organize files, take calls, or even manage social media profiles. These are great avenues for teens to gain real work experience,” said Challenger.