Our Northwest

Are teens still interested in summer jobs?

Monday, June 19, 2017by  Sharlyn Petit

young adult male sits at home unemployed, eating cerealThe other day, I was chatting with my neighborhood barista on the usual waiting-for-your-coffee topics (weather, weekend plans, etc.) when I was surprised to learn the shop was having a hard time filling evening, weekend, and summer-schedule shifts.

She asked, Where are those energetic, hardworking students who want to earn extra cash over the summer? We've also wondered how teen unemployment is connected to fewer teens getting their licenses or teens even wanting to drive at all.  

According to a recent Pew report, employment among 16- to 19-year-olds has declined over the past two decades, and the report uncovers a fairly regular pattern: rates rise during economic good times and fall during and after recessions. In 2014, 31.3% of teens worked summer jobs, compared to just over 40% in 2004, and over 50% in 1994.

The decline also could be attributed to reduced job opportunities, enrollment in summer school programs, an earlier start to the academic school year, more teens doing unpaid community service work, or students taking unpaid internships.

When teens do get summer jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports they're gaining valuable experience in service-oriented roles in restaurants, hotels, and retail – over 50% of jobs are in the accommodation, food services, wholesale, and retail trade industries.

Other avenues for the outdoorsy, get-out-of-bed-at-11 a.m., or entrepreneurial spirit types:

  • Parks and Recreation Departments and other agencies connect teens with jobs in their communities, outdoors on trails and park sites, or indoors on youth programs or career training.

  • Create flexible income by collecting freelance jobs through connections – house-sitting, lawn care, walking dogs, and other as-needed jobs can add up to a full summer.

  • Marketing talents. Whether it's summer tutoring, website design, photography, or crafts – skills + a little marketing know-how + online tools = instant business owner. (Teens should partner with a parent or legal guardian if using resell shops like eBay or Etsy, and read terms and conditions carefully.)

Paper cuts, clean-ups on every grocery store aisle, and frozen yogurt machine meltdowns all had their place in my teenage summers – mainly in support of car expenses. But, car or no car, are teens these days still interested in summer jobs? 

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