Summer jobs for teens make slight comeback
The share of teenagers working summer jobs had dwindled for years, but the numbers have come back a bit in the last couple of years.
The share of teenagers working summer jobs had dwindled for years, but the numbers have come back a bit in the last couple of years. It is a change applauded by educators and financial advisers alike.
“Summer jobs are a great idea,” said Laura Levine, chief executive of the JumpStart Coalition, a nonprofit group that promotes financial literacy. “Money management begins with how to get that money in the first place.”
This year, hiring of teenagers got off to a strong start in May, although the pace slowed slightly in June compared with last year. Still, the combined total of about 1.08 million jobs added for those two months is above average for the past decade, according to an analysis of federal data by the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
Andrew Challenger, the firm’s vice president, said the longer-term trend away from summer jobs does not mean young people are lazy. “Teens are still busy,” he said. They are doing things like volunteering in hurricane-stricken areas, taking extra classes or honing their sports skills to burnish their college applications. They may be making a calculation, he said, that such experiences make more of an impression on college admissions staff than a summer job scooping ice cream.
Whether they are working to help support their families, saving for college or building a fund for some other goal, young workers should have a plan for the money they earn, Levine said. Earning a steady paycheck for the first time can make teenagers feel “cash rich” and lead to overspending, she said. “It can disappear quickly.”
Deciding ahead of time to put a certain amount into savings and spend a small amount on entertainment makes teenagers less likely to squander their earnings, she said.
Even though the overall unemployment rate has fallen amid a stronger economy, teenagers can have a hard time finding temporary summer jobs.
The retail industry, for instance, a traditional place for teenagers to land summer work, is shifting away from brick-and-mortar stores and toward online sales, Challenger said.
Levine said, “Even when the job market is good, it does take diligence, and a willingness to be flexible.” That may mean taking a job that is not a first choice. But a job means money and offers experience dealing with bosses, co-workers and customers.
In parts of the country where students will return to school in mid-August, much of the summer is already gone and employers may not be as eager to hire as they were in the spring. But often, entry-level jobs suitable for teenagers have high turnover.
What about having a job during the school year? Fine, as long as you don’t overdo it. There is a link between intense school-year employment — 20 or more hours a week — and the risk of dropping out, said Jeremy Staff, a Penn State sociology professor.
A young cashier helps a woman with her purchase of toys. This year, the hiring of teenagers for summer work got off to a strong start, with 1.08 million jobs added in the months of May and June.