Teens staying home this summer as they opt out of employment

Daytime party with friends
Teens have other things on their minds than working this summer. (gpointstudio/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Teens are opting out of securing summer employment, which means fewer workers seeking positions in an already crowded job market. But although fewer people looking in a packed market might seem like a good thing, having teens in it is important.

The spots they could secure, while likely entry-level because of teens’ ages and experience, do position them to be on their way in the employment world. Also, more teens in the workforce could allow more seasoned workers to climb the company ladder.

But teen hiring will remain stagnant this summer, as more of them focus on education, family obligations and extracurricular activities, said Andrew Challenger, vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, in a statement.

Although more than 1 million teens got jobs in June of last year, the best June showing for this group since 2007, teen hiring fell nearly 4% last summer to 1.3 million jobs gained, according to an analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics by Challenger.

July was even worse. Employment among workers aged 16 to 19 was 190,000 last July, the lowest July total on record. That is 61.4% less than the 492,000 job gains in July 2016.

In total, last year’s summer total was the smallest amount of jobs gained since 2015, when 1.16 million teens found positions.

Some of the declines could be due to the changing face of retail, which is leading to thousands of store closures. In March, Toys“R”Us, a large employer of teens, announced it was closing all of its U.S. stores. Since January 2017, Challenger said it has tracked more than 5,000 announced closings of retail locations.

“However, teen employment has been falling steadily since the ‘90s and especially since the recession,” Challenger said. “The teen participation rate in the summer months has hovered near 40% since 2009, well below the highs of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s.”

“The data may show that fewer teens are applying to and working in summer jobs, but that doesn't mean that they don't want jobs,” Steven Rothberg, president of College Recruiter, told FierceCEO. “There are far fewer teens now than there were just a handful of years ago as the largest graduating class in high school history is now about 6 years out of high school. Replacing those younger millennials are members of Gen Z, which is just starting to enter the workforce.”

Fewer workers and an improving economy “mean less supply and higher demand, which an economist would say should lead to higher wages, better working conditions and more,” Rothberg said. “Yet many employers won't or can't pay more or treat their employees better. And those are typically the employers who are the loudest about not being able to hire anyone.”