American teens are not interested in summer jobs

by Grace

Fewer teens are working.

… 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….

20140527.COCDeclineSummerJobs2

And they are not very interested in getting jobs. Only 8.3% of teens who were not working last summer said they even wanted a job.

20140527.COCTeensDisinterestedJobs2

This doesn’t mean that teens are simply tanning by the pool or binge-watching Bravo (though some certainly are). Challenger says that many teens are in summer school (rates of summer school attendance are at one of the highest levels ever, he says), volunteering, doing extracurricular activities to pad their college applications and trying out unpaid internships. And all of these are worthwhile endeavors (well, minus the tanning and Bravo), especially as it becomes more competitive to get into many elite colleges.

Lack of work experience can be a disadvantage.

That said, experts say that paid work has value for a number of reasons — and that teens (even those who plan to go to college) who don’t do it may be at a disadvantage. “It’s critical for teenagers to work, to begin to understand the working world, the value of a paycheck” says Gene Natali, co-author of “The Missing Semester” and a senior vice president at Pittsburgh investment firm C.S. McKee. “Choosing not to work a paid job has consequences.”

The good old days?

One of my older relatives had a job in high school delivering both the morning and afternoon newspapers.  He and a friend would rise early each day to roll up and deliver papers before their first class, and then repeat the routine after school.  He was also in the school band, played varsity tennis, and maintained good grades, clearly demonstrating he was able to manage his time effectively.  A generation or two later, it’s hard to imagine many kids successfully maintaining a similar schedule of activities. Many of them need reminders to take their Adderal in the morning, and think they are too busy for a part-time job.  Maybe my relative was a remarkable young man, but many of his peers also worked during high school.

Times have changed.  Expectations have changed.  Kids have changed.

Related:  “Teens are too busy preparing for college instead of working” (Cost of College)

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Catey Hill, “American teens don’t want to work”, MarketWatch, May 3, 2014.

‘Teen Summer Job Outlook Teen Employment Culd Remain Flat as More Say “Nah” to Summer Jobs’,  Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., April 28, 2014.

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3 Comments to “American teens are not interested in summer jobs”

  1. The lack of interest in summer jobs may also be related to the fact that the pay rate in constant dollars has dropped substantially—there is less monetary payoff for working than there used to be, and more competition even for the low-paying jobs from adults.

    There are also teens like my son and his friends who are starting a tech company—they are working very hard, but don’t expect to see a positive cash flow for at least another year. Engineering and development take a lot of initial investment in time.

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  2. It also may be hard to find *summer* jobs. It was hard even in my day – I can remember having to lie my face off to get a McDonalds job after my freshman year in college. No one wanted to hire someone who was going to go back to college in a few months. Judging from the fact that people working in fast food and discount retail are now mainly adult immigrants, it is probably really hard now.

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  3. My observation is that summer jobs are not THAT hard to get, but they do require kids to hustle. The trend in teen employment has been consistently down, during good and bad economic times.

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