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The Best Employment Market for Teens Since the Recession

With so many dreary reports bemoaning the lackluster teen workforce these days, it would be easy to write off this group of young people. While it is true that far fewer teens are working this summer than were pre-Great Recession times, the job market is heating up for kids between the ages of 16 and 19 compared with the last few years. In fact, 32.1% of teens found jobs in June compared with 30.9 percent the year prior, according to the Economic Policy Institute.


An interesting shift in in the teen job market is where they are working. Accommodation and Food Service is where you are more likely to find a teenager than in the retail. “It turns out that teens who are finding work these days are more likely to be busing tables or tending a grill than staffing a mall boutique or T-shirt stand,” the Pew Research Center reports. More than 30% of teens are working in the Accommodation and Food Services sector compared with 21.7% in the retail space.

The drop off in the retail sector is dramatic. Last July saw 1.2 million teens in the retail space compared with more than 2 million in July 2000. That is nearly a 41% free fall. As retail has lost its appeal to teens, the number of young people working at hotels, restaurants and similar businesses has increased significantly. Nearly 33% of teens worked in these industries last summer compared with only 22.6% in July 2000.

It’s not just retail that is experiencing a teen exodus; other industries are losing their appeal as well. For example, 450,000 teens worked in manufacturing or construction in July 2014; less than half of the number of teens just 14 ears prior before the Recession.

To be sure, the job market today for teens may be stronger than it has been in recent years, but they still have a long way to go to match pre-recession numbers. NPR reports that nationwide, “only about 30% of teens will work this summer. That’s slightly up from recent years, but way down from 2000 when 52% of teens worked.”

Still, it is in everyone’s best long-term interest to support the teen employment market. As the NPR report points out, teens who work during the summer learn valuable life lessons and as a result are more likely than not to continue working part-time, graduate from high school and go on to college, putting them on a track of success as opposed to relying upon public subsidies and straining the system later in life.