Tips for Teens Looking for Summer Jobs

Posted April 11, 2013 by
John Challenger of Challenger, Gray & Christmas

John Challenger of Challenger, Gray & Christmas

Continued employment gains across the economy, but particularly in lower-skilled, lower-paying hourly wage categories, are expected to benefit teenagers seeking jobs this summer, according to a new outlook released Thursday by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

While job-seeking teens are likely to face competition from recent college graduates, as well as those at the opposite end of the age spectrum, employment gains for 16- to 19-year-olds in May, June and July should surpass last year’s levels.

“There will definitely be more opportunities for teenagers seeking employment this summer.  Of course, it is still a competitive environment.  So, teens should not expect employers to come knocking on their door.  The search will require maximum effort, starting now, in order to have a position lined up before the school year ends,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Last year, the number of working 16- to 19-year-olds grew by nearly 1.4 million (1,397,000) in May, June and July, according to non-seasonally adjusted data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.  That marked a 29 percent improvement over 2011, when 1,087,000 teens found summer jobs.  In 2010, only 960,000 teenagers were added to payrolls; the fewest since 1949, government data show.

“Last year’s teen summer job market was the strongest since 2007, when a pre-recession economy added nearly 1.7 million 16- to 19-year-olds to employer payrolls.  There is a chance we could reach that level again in 2013; not necessarily because the economy is booming, but because the types of employers that typically seek out teens are doing better,” said Challenger.

The latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show increased employment in the retail sector, particularly among food stores, clothing and clothing accessory stores, and sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores.  Employers in leisure and hospitality also appear to be expanding.  The most recent government report on hiring and job openings showed that at the end of February there were 378,000 job openings in retail and 510,000 openings in leisure and hospitality, including 458,000 opportunities in accommodation and food services.

“Earlier this year both Home Depot and Lowes announced they would be adding 80,000 and 45,000 seasonal workers, respectively.  These openings as well as those at shopping malls, clothing stores, amusement parks, day camps, etc., are ripe opportunities for teenagers hoping to earn some money this summer,” noted Challenger.

“Moreover, an improving housing market could mean that more homeowners plan home improvement and landscaping projects this spring and summer after postponing such projects during the downturn.  This could mean job openings with landscaping companies and contractors,” Challenger advised.

While more opportunities are expected to exist for teen summer job seekers, the question remains whether more teens will actually pursue them.  Teen unemployment remains high, with about one-quarter of teenagers in the labor force unable to find employment.  However, less than one-third of the nation’s 16,840,000 non-institutionalized 16- to 19-year-olds are working or even looking for work.  A March labor force participation rate of 31.5 percent is up only slightly from the record low 30.8 percent recorded in January 2012.

While some teens dropped out of the labor force due to frustration or discouragement, the vast majority appear to be non-participants by choice.  Of the average 11,162,000 teenagers not in the labor force throughout 2012, the number indicating they wanted a job averaged just 1,167,000.

“However, even with more teenagers dropping out of the labor force, competition for jobs will remain fierce.  Right now, there are more than 1.2 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,” said Challenger.

“Of course, then you have the competition from older, more experienced applicants, including retirees who are seeking low-skilled, low-pressure jobs to supplement their retirement income.  It is critical that teenagers not wait until the school year ends to start their job search.  It is equally important that they take an active approach as opposed to a passive one that relies mostly on internet job boards,” said Challenger.

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

“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.

“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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