Teenagers Participating in the Workforce at Record Lows


Teenagers Are Eschewing the Summer Job

The youngest workers in the U.S. are more unemployed than ever, as teens face a variety of obstacles on their way to part-time employment.

U.S. teenagers were looking for work last July at a rate of about 43% for 16- to 19-year-olds. That represents a 10% dip compared to July of 2006, and a whopping 27% dip when you look at labor participation rates for teens in July of 1988 and 1989.

But even during the year, the job numbers have declined, and are projected to continue doing so. A BLS study believes that teen labor force participation will drop below 27% in 2024, which is a full 30 points lower than the peak seasonally adjusted rate in 1989.

There are many factors that are being discussed as to what has caused this drop-off in labor force participation.


One is that schooling has become far more intensive, and the rate of teenagers who are taking the summer off to study has increased immensely. The BLS study shows that nearly 20% of teenagers in the 16- to 19-year-old age bracket were enrolled in summer school, which amounts to about four times as many students as in 1985.

Schools loads have also increased, with high-school students facing more competition than ever for spots in well-respected universities. They are therefore under more pressure to succeed.

There are also stronger candidates competing with them for jobs at times, with seniority often winning out.

Teens are also potentially disillusioned with summer jobs, as the low minimum wage across the country and within individual states is hardly enough to afford the massive tuition costs that elite universities charge.

And then there’s the old generational conflict, with some claiming that Millennials are incapable of working hard, or at least, not as hard as the generation before them.

Still, the lack of teenager workforce participation is a worrying trend for the economy, especially one that is looking to shut out low-skilled workers via restrictive immigration policies.


(Source: “Why Aren’t American Teenagers Working Anymore?,” Bloomberg, June 5, 2017.)


Categories: Job Cuts, News