Summer School Jobs Europe

U.S. Teens Say ‘No, Thanks’ to Summer Jobs

Did you have summer jobs when you were in your teens? I did, and I will expect my son to do the same. I never made much money, but the experiences taught me a lot about the value of work.

Whether it was working on construction sites, flipping and delivering pizza, making salads, bussing tables or bartending, I developed habits and attitudes that still help me today.

Really? If this is the case, then today’s teens are missing some important lessons. What will they do all summer?

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The MarketWatch article says the teen job situation changed dramatically the last few decades. Here is how it starts:

The number of teens with summer jobs has fallen roughly 30 percentage points since the late ’70s. In 1978, nearly three in four teenagers (71.8%) ages 16 to 19 held a summer job, but as of last year, only about four in 10 teens did, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the month of July analyzed by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

It’s been a steady decline, seen even during good times: During the dot-com boom in the late 1990s, when national unemployment was only about 4%, roughly six in 10 teens held summer jobs.

Even recently, with the economy recovering, fewer teens opted for jobs: Last year’s summer job gain was down 3% from the summer payrolls in 2012, the report revealed.

This chart shows the trend graphically.

This study is actually quite clever. The "labor force participation rate" is a statistic for people who either have a job already, or are actively looking for employment.

In this case, researchers zoomed in on the group aged 16-19 and looked only at the month of July. The results show a clear downtrend in teen summer job conditions.

Their participation dropped steadily since the late 1970s, and began falling faster around 1995. What caused this? I think multiple factors are involved.

  • Automation and offshore outsourcing wiped out many of the seasonal jobs once available for teens.
  • Teens today are more likely to attend summer school, take unpaid internships, or be heavily involved in sports.
  • Most recently, the weak economy forced many adults to take low-paying jobs that once went to teens.

Whatever the reason, I believe teens who don’t get at least some work experience will be at a disadvantage later on, and seriously hurt their chances of getting that great first job right out of college.

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