Posted April 25, 2012 by

More Jobs Available For Teens Yet Fewer Teens Looking for Jobs

John Challenger of Challenger, Gray & ChristmasThe job market is starting to improve around the country, albeit faster in some areas than others.  The accelerating recovery should prove beneficial to teenagers seeking employment this summer, as they are likely to face less competition from older, more experienced job hunters.  However, a new outlook on the summer job prospects for teenagers reveals that fewer are actually seeking these seasonal positions.

Summer employment among teenagers is projected to increase over last year’s better-than-expected gains, according to the annual teen summer employment outlook released Tuesday by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Last year, teen employment gains during the summer months improved significantly after falling to record lows in 2010.  Non-seasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show employment among 16- to 19-year-olds grew by 1,087,000 jobs from May through June last year.  That was up 13.2 percent from the same period a year earlier, when the teen employment ranks grew by just 960,000.

The 960,000 teenagers added to payrolls in the summer of 2010 was the lowest level of seasonal hiring since 1949, when teen employment increased by only 932,000 from May through July.

“The teen job market definitely rebounded in 2011, with more than 1,000,000 teens finding new jobs.  However, job gains among teens were still well below the levels achieved prior to the recession.  While teen employment is likely to see further improvement this summer, job gains will probably once again fall short of pre-recession figures,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Teens were in high demand before the 2008 recession.  From 2005 through 2007, employment among 16- to 19-year-olds grew by an average of 1.7 million during the summer months of May, June and July.

“Many of the same issues that kept teen hiring subdued over the last three years still exist.  Employers are finding ways to meet demand with existing workers; states and local municipalities, which hire teenagers to work at camps, beaches, pools and parks, continue to struggle with massive spending deficits; and there are millions of Americans in their 20s, with and without college degrees, who are willing to take jobs that were typically filled by teenagers in the past,” said Challenger.

The good news is that on all of these fronts, the situation is improving.    Overall, private sector employers have added nearly 4.0 million new workers to their payrolls since December 2009.  Employment among 20- to 24-year-olds has experienced a net increase of 869,000 over the same period.  Meanwhile, a March report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that state finances are indeed improving, albeit very slowly, with 10 states reporting new budget shortfalls totaling $3.7 billion.

“We are probably still several years away from teen summer hiring returning to pre-recession levels.  Teenagers hoping to find employment this summer definitely want to start their searches now, if they have not already done so.  And, they should not expect to find a job by simply filling out electronic applications through employer websites and online job boards.  Those are great places to find opportunities, but the key is to engage in an active search that focuses on meeting with hiring managers face-to-face,” advised Challenger.

Interestingly, whether it is the frustration of finding employment or an increased desire to focus on academics, volunteering, sports, or other activities, but an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data reveals that more and more teenagers are opting out of the labor force entirely and have no desire to seek employment.

In 2011, the number of 16- to 19-year-olds not participating in the labor force, meaning they were neither employed nor actively seeking employment, averaged 11,048,000.  Of that total, only 1,102,000 said they wanted a job.  About 90 percent (9,946,000) of the teens not in the labor force indicated that they did not want a job.

As the following chart shows, the number of 16- to 19-year-olds not wanting a job has increased steadily since 1994, in lockstep with the number of people in that age group who are opting out of the labor force.  Meanwhile, the number of teens not in the labor force but who want jobs has remained relatively flat over the same time period.

16-19 Year Olds Not in Labor Force

“However, even with more teenagers dropping out of the labor force, competition will remain fierce.  Right now, there are about 1.3 million unemployed 16- to 19-year-olds who are looking for work.  There are probably an additional 1.1 to 1.2 million who have stopped looking for work, but still want a job.  Not to mention, the competition from older, more experienced applicants, including retirees who are seeking low-skilled, low-pressure jobs to supplement their retirement income,” said Challenger.

“By getting out from behind the computer, young job seekers may also find opportunities that don’t exist in the digital realm.  Many mom-and-pop stores do not advertise job openings on the Internet.  Nor do families looking for babysitters, lawnmowers or housecleaners.  Some of the best opportunities this year may be for the odd-jobs entrepreneur.

“Many families are eliminating monthly expenses such as lawn care and home cleaning.  However, these tasks still need to be completed and families, while strapped for cash, are no less strapped for time.  A teenager who can provide these services at a fraction of what professional services charge may be able to drum up enough business to earn a steady income.  Teenagers won’t find these opportunities in the classified ads or on the Internet; they will have to go out and sell their services to their neighbors,” said Challenger.

“Use your parents, friends and your friends’ parents as sources for job leads.  Try to meet with hiring managers face-to-face, as opposed to simply dropping off a completed application form with a random clerk at the sales counter,” he added.

“Newspapers, both print and online, are also a good source for job leads.  The classified ad section will contain some help wanted advertisements, but do not forget to read the local and business news sections, where you might find stories about new local businesses or ones that are struggling to find workers.

“Most importantly, do not get frustrated by failure.  Many teens give up after applying to 10 or 12 jobs, concluding that ‘no one is hiring teens this summer.’  Chances are good that there are more than 10 or 12 employers in your city or town, so it is necessary to cast a wider net.  There are many summer job opportunities outside the confines of the local mall,” noted Challenger.

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