We look at why fewer teens are working summer jobs

American unemployment rates are the lowest they’ve been in 16 years, but there’s one demographic that hasn’t made a full return to the workforce: teenagers.

Now that summer is starting, companies are ramping up hiring seasonal workers, but less and less 16 to 19 year-old teenagers are taking summer jobs.

After peaking in 1979 at nearly 58 percent, the general rate of teenage participation in the labor force has continued to fall, reaching in 34.1 percent in 2011, and projected to slide further by 2024. 

According to an article in the Bureau of Labor Statistics Monthly Labor Review, there are various factors at play, such as older workers, recent graduates and immigrant workers taking jobs that might typically go to teenage workers. But one crucial factor is that teenagers are spending a lot more time studying – summer school, an extended school day and more strenuous college admissions standards that require volunteer hours and high SAT scores –  all take up teenagers’ time. For example, in 1985, about 10 percent of teens ages 16-19 were enrolled in school during July, compared to nearly 42 percent in 2016.  

If you’re a teenager, or are the parent of a teenager, how do teens spend their summers? Did you have a summer job and what was its value?  


Ben Steverman, personal finance reporter at Bloomberg news; he wrote the article “Why aren’t American teenagers working anymore?;” he tweets @BSteverman