Teens seeking summer jobs got off to a strong start in May, as employment among 16- to 19-year-olds grew by 217,000 in May. That was the biggest May employment gain for teenagers in eight years, according to an analysis of the latest employment data by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Last month’s employment gains among teens was a slight improvement over 2013, when 215,000 16- to 19-year-olds found jobs in May. The last time there was more hiring of teens in May was 2006, when 230,000 found jobs in first month of what is typically a three-month teen employment surge from May through July.

With May hiring, there are now 4,473,000 employed 16- to 19-year-olds, according to the data released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The peak of teen employment usually occurs in July, and then begins to fall in August as many begin returning to school.

Last year, teen employment peaked at 5,143,000 in July, after employers added a total of 1,355,000 16-to 19-year-olds in May, June and July. The total number of teens finding work last summer was down about 3.0 percent from the previous year, when employment in this age group grew by 1,397,000.
In its annual teen summer job outlook, Challenger estimated that summer employment gains among teens would be about the same as last year. The strong start notwithstanding, June hiring will provide the best indicator of how this year’s teen summer job market stacks up against previous summers.

“Teen hiring got off to a strong start last year, but then fell off in June and July, compared to the previous year. So, it is a little too early to say how young job seekers will fare this year. The job market is improving, but there is still a lot of competition for job openings, not only with fellow teens, but with recent college graduates and job seekers with experience,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas

Another factor that could temper teen hiring this summer, is an unusual hiring surge among teens that occurred earlier this year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of employed teenagers increased by 323,000 in March and April. That is more than double the 143,000 added during the same two-month period in 2013. In fact, over the previous 10 years, teen employment gains in March and April have averaged just 55,000.

“It is difficult to pinpoint why this earlier hiring push occurred and whether those jobs will continue through the summer months, but it could mean that many jobs typically filled by teenagers are already taken. However, even if that is the case, there are likely to be many job opportunities that still exist for young people. If hiring remains on par with last year, we can still expect to see around 1.3 million teens find employment this summer,” said Challenger.

“While many summer jobs have already been filled, it is never too late to start or renew one’s job search. There usually is high turnover in the types of jobs occupied by teenagers. Retail, restaurant service, amusement parks, etc., may continue hiring throughout the summer to replace people who quit or were let go for whatever reason. Do not be afraid to return to employers that may have already turned you down for a job in previous efforts. Lastly, look for opportunities to sub in for workers who may be taking summer trips with their family. If you can get a referral from a current worker, it could ease your way into the position,” Challenger advised.

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