Will Your Teen Have a Summer Job?

A summer job was once a rite of passage for a teenager. Many parents urged – some required – teens to land a three-month job. Young people were often found flipping burgers, caring for small children, occupying lifeguard posts at pools and the beach, and serving as camp counselors. This summer, however, fewer people ages 16 to 19 will be working summer jobs, part of an employment trend experts have been following for a decade. According to the career out-placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the number of teens securing summer jobs in May was down 14 percent from last year. The firm analyzed government data, finding that just 156,000 teens will be working at paying jobs this summer. That decrease isn’t a fluke. The previous year, the number of teens with summer jobs dropped 11 percent.

“Low hiring in May does not necessarily portend an overall drop in summer hiring,” said John A. Challenger, the firm’s CEO said in a press release. “In 2007, just 62,000 teenagers found employment in May, but total job gains for the summer exceeded 1.6 million. However, the general trend in summer employment among teens has been downward and that trend has been going on since the late 1970s.”

So what are teens doing instead? Many are volunteering. Others are taking classes. Some accept non-paying internships. What seems to be on the minds of many teens is enhancing that college resume with experiences that will make compelling topics for those application essays. Then there are some who won’t work, spending time possibly traveling or just enjoying being with family and friends.

To work or not to work, of course, is a personal decision made by the teen and his or her family. But reading these statistics made me think about my own teen years and all those summer jobs I held. Like so many teens back then and now, I had to work. Summer was a time when I and most of my friends had to make money to pay for college. And back then, unlike now, there were many more opportunities for teens seeking employment. The factories in my hometown ramped up production during the summer and eagerly sought young workers. Now those factories are gone, those jobs lost not only to teens but to older workers as well.

As a teenager, I held a variety of summer jobs. I worked in a factory that made Halloween toys and decorations. I manned the concession stand at the local movie theater, selling popcorn and candy. When I was in college, I worked in an office as a receptionist serving as summer relief for the regular workers. One summer, I worked as a waitress on the Jersey Shore. Some of the jobs I loved. Others I tolerated. But on each one I took away more than just a paycheck. I learned how to work with others. I learned how to earn the respect of a manager. And I learned the value of money. I wasn’t so eager to spend money it took me hours to earn.

Perhaps because of my own experience, I required both of my children to work during the summer. Like my jobs, their jobs weren’t always ones they enjoyed. But they took away some of the same lessons I learned.

The world has changed and teens now have a harder time finding summer employment. Challenger noted that development, saying that even jobs in amusement parks and summer camps are not growing, limiting opportunities for teens. It seems that landing one of these positions will take effort and possibly a little luck.

Perhaps this trend is the tipping point, a shift in what young people will do going forward. Many teens will work during the summer, just not in the traditional jobs that we once held. Challenger noted this fact, saying that many jobs teens take on fall below the radar, not being reported to the government. Aided by technology, many teens are becoming entrepreneurs. You can find them on YouTube and in your own neighborhood. There are websites like TeenBusiness devoted to celebrating these individuals and helping those who want to join the ranks.

Indeed, the times they are a changing. Going forward, summer will never be the same.

Top photo: Bigstock

About Charlene Giannetti (604 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. She is the author of 13 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her last book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Her podcast, WAT-CAST, interviewing men and women making news, is available on Soundcloud and on iTunes. She is one of the producers for the film "Life After You," focusing on the opioid/heroin crisis that had its premiere at WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, where it won two awards. The film is now available to view on Amazon Prime, YouTube, and other services. Charlene and her husband live in Manhattan.