Summer 2012 Job Outlook: Difficult Times for Job-Searching Teens

It’s that frightening time of year for many teenagers: school is about to let out and the search for a summer job is about to begin. Jobs for teens are an important part of youth development, providing both needed income and teaching valuable work skills. According to research in the January/Feburary 2011 issue of Child Development, teen jobs i decrease the likelihood the working teen will drop out of school—as long as teens work 20 hours or less each week during the school year—and increase future earnings [Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies].

This year–as in recent years–too many teens are competing for too few jobs. Although last year saw some improvement in the summer teen job market, the number of jobs for teens has not returned to pre-recession levels and nationally averages 24.9 percent—one in four youth who wants to work cannot find a job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, among 16- to 24-year-old workers, only 48.8 percent were employed in July 2010—the lowest rate since the government started tracking the number in 1948.

In some states, the battle to find a job is particularly tough. In California, 36.2 percent of teen workers cannot find jobs; in the District of Columbia, 51.7 percent. If one factors in the teens who have become discouraged about finding a job and who have stopped looking, nearly every state experiences a jump in their teen unemployment rates, according to the Employment Policies Institute (EPI)

“Although the jobs outlook has improved slightly for summer 2012, teens searching for summer employment are still faced with more competition and less opportunity than past generations,” said Michael Saltsman, a research fellow at the EPI.