The summer surge in teen employment got off to a weak start as the number of 16- to 19-year-olds added to the workforce in May declined for the second consecutive year, according to a new report.
Outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said its analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data showed employment among 16- to 19-year-olds increased by 156,000 last month, down 14% from last year, when teen employment grew by 182,000.
Over the past five years, an average of 1,259,200 teens joined the workforce between May 1 and July 31. But last month was the slowest start to the summer hiring season since 2011, when just 71,000 teenagers found jobs in May.
“Low hiring in May does not necessarily portend an overall drop in summer hiring,” Challenger Gray CEO John Challenger said in a news release. “In 2007, just 62,000 teenagers found employment in May, but total job gains for the summer exceeded 1.6 million. However, the general trend in summer employment among teens has been downward and that trend has been going on since the late 1970s.”
Economic downturns aren’t the only reason for declining teen employment, Challenger said, noting that the number of working teens fell even in the relatively high-flying 1990s. As skilled blue-collar workers have been pushed down the ladder into lower-skilled, lower-paying service jobs, he explained, teens have been pushed out of the labor market.
“They continue to have opportunities in the classic summer job settings, such as summer camps, neighborhood pools, amusement parks, etc.,” Challenger said. “However, the number of these jobs is not really growing. We don’t see a dozen new amusement parks or summer camps start up every year. Meanwhile, restaurants and retail outlets … don’t need as many workers to meet seasonal demand.”
Challenger also pointed to “mounting evidence that teens are not pursuing traditional summer jobs like they used to” as many enroll in summer educational programs, volunteer, or pursue “money-making opportunities that fall below the radar of standard employment measures, such as unpaid internships or entrepreneurial ventures.”