Published August 27, 2022

What’s Happening With Teen Workers

Total summer jobs added for teens fell 4% in 2022 from the same period in 2021. Employers added 1,239,000 teen jobs in May, June, and July this year, compared to 1,295,000 jobs added last summer, according to an analysis of non-seasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) by global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. 

In July, companies employed 201,000 more teens, the fewest jobs added in July since 2017, when 190,000 more teens found jobs. This summer’s total of 1,239,000 jobs is the lowest total since 2015, when 1,160,000 new jobs were added for teens.

Meanwhile, 6,557,000 teens were employed in July, the highest monthly total since July 2008, when 6,698,000 teens found jobs. 

Challenger Analysis

“The fact that fewer jobs were added for this cohort this summer than the previous summer indicates establishments that employ teen workers either had enough staff going into the summer or were planning for a downturn that would stifle demand, opting not to add positions,” said Andrew Challenger, economic expert and Senior Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Most Teen Workers Since 2008 Great Recession

In fact, more teens were employed going into this summer than at any time in the last 14 years. In January through April, an average of 5,216,000 teens were employed each month, the most since 2008, when an average of 5,353,000 teens were employed. For comparison, in 2009, an average of 4,767,000 teens were working in those four months, and last year, an average of 4,849,000 teens had jobs in January through April.

“There were certainly reasons for teens to find jobs this year. After a long, socially, and mentally difficult pandemic, a job could help teens build a sense of community, particularly at places that employ other teens. Many teens were likely looking to get out of the house,” said Challenger.

“Meanwhile, inflation and recession-concerns may have spurred teens to find extra income for themselves or their families,” he added.

Another facet of the teen job market is the number of them who are not in the labor force. The last time the total labor force – those who were employed plus those looking for work – surpassed the number of teens who were not in the labor force was in 2001. The number of teens not in the labor force has grown from an average 7,642,000 in 2000 to 10,491,000 in 2021. 

Teen Labor Market Graph 2000 - 2021; compare teens employed, unemployed, not i labor force, and total.Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. © | Digital Artist, Nicole Lobdell

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., with non-seasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 According to a 2017 analysis from the BLS, 92% of teens cited “school” as the reason they were not in the labor force in 2014. In 2016, the BLS reported 42.1% of teens surveyed cited school as the reason they were not participating in the labor force in July, compared to 27.1% in July 2000 and 41.8% in July 2008.

“School is likely the number one reason teens are not working. It encompasses other school-related activities, such as camps, sports, and volunteer opportunities,” said Challenger

“Many employers reported it was difficult to find workers this summer, including Retail and Leisure establishments that often hire teen workers. The labor market remains tight, despite economic indicators that point to a recession. We’re seeing a full-blown dichotomy in the labor market, where companies are expecting and in some cases, planning for a downturn, but workers are still in demand,” he added.

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