Employment rates for individuals under the age of 20 in America hit a historic low last year. This year is not expected to be much better. Summer employment, once the private reserve of students and teachers, has, in recent years, seen an influx of both young adults (age 20-24) and seniors, battling a tight job market, pension reductions and layoffs. This year, however, things may be looking up for teen workers after 20 months of growth.
“Given that overall employment has been growing, we expect a pretty healthy job market this summer,” Janemarie Mulvey, president of the Employment Policy Foundation told Bankrate.
The Foundation, which is a non-profit organization that studies employment, expects to see a teen unemployment rate of around 15.5 percent this summer. That’s down from 18.2 percent last year. Traditionally, the teen unemployment rate is about three times that of the adult unemployment rate Bankrate reports.
In addition to competition from older siblings, their parents and even their grandparents, federal funding for summer jobs has also been eroding in recent years.
“The federal government has greatly reduced funding for summer employment opportunities,” Glenn Eagleson, policy analyst with San Francisco’s Department of Children, Youth and Their Families told MarketWatch.
Those teens fortunate enough to be employed last year stand a good chance of being employed this summer, too. Some of their friends may also find jobs. The leisure and hospitality industry, one of the two industries that together account for nearly 2/3 of teen jobs, has added 823,000 jobs since June 2002 John Stinson, a labor economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) told MarketWatch.
“Most of our summer workers are those that have worked for us year after year,” Jo Cohn, vice president/regional store director for Boscov’s, told the York Daily Record. “We look forward to that. We are counting on them to come back.”
Whether a teen will find summer employment this year also depends on where they live. Wyoming and Nebraska are the only states that have seen teen employment increase in recent years and teen employment levels in South Dakota and Nebraska is more than 70 percent according to MarketWatch. Teens in Washington D.C., Louisiana and California will have the most trouble finding jobs this summer with only about one in three employed.
Another challenge facing teens seeking summer employment is where they are looking. Most teens tend to apply for job at places teens want to go. With many older workers still competing for jobs in retail and restaurants, teens may have trouble finding opportunities. The best bets might be in those industries that go through seasonal peaks during the summer months. Places like resorts, parks and fast food restaurants might be hiring. Younger teens might want to consider applying at grocery stores.
Wages are likely to remain low for teens although income can be affected by experience, relevant skills, age and even grade point average. Volunteering is a great way to gain experience and learn relevant skills, not to mention trying out potential jobs and even careers, for teens unable to find paying jobs.
Summer jobs can be an important role in preparing teens for adulthood. Parents should take an active interest in where their teens are applying, what their work responsibilities are and how they are spending their earnings. Summer is a great time for parents to discuss budgets and taxes as well as teaching basic money management skills with teens. Whether the teen is paid or just volunteering, the experience is significant.
“It really is about empowerment,” Neale Godfrey, author of “Money Still Doesn’t Grow on Tress” and chairman of the Children’s Financial Network told BankRate. “It’s probably their first real work experience outside of being supported by mom and dad.”