As the economy improves, there will be more jobs available to teens this summer — if they want them.
“There’s a lot more demands on teenagers these days,” said Andrew Challenger, vice president of executive outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. As academic and athletic pursuits crowd out running a cash register or delivering takeout orders, there has been a decline in the number of teenagers working summer jobs.
Challenger’s annual look at the state of the teen summer job market found that last year, the number of 16- to 19-year-olds who worked from May through July fell by around 4 percent from 2013.
But the data also shows that plenty of teens still want to work. In March, two months before the traditional peak hiring season begins, there were more 16- to 19-year-olds already working than there had been since March 2009. The teen unemployment rate, which peaked at 29 percent in June 2010, was 17 percent in March.
An online survey conducted for jobs website Snagajob.com by Wakefield Research found that 44 percent of 1,000 managers responsible for hiring hourly workers plan to bring on more seasonal employees this year. About a third said they would hire the same number.
“It shouldn’t be as difficult… than it has been in previous years” for teens who want jobs to find them, said Kim Costa, job coach at Snagajob, since more companies are hiring and older workers are able to vacate entry-level jobs for better positions.
“A lot of those jobs traditionally reserved for teenagers have been occupied by older workers who couldn’t find better positions,” Challenger said. “With the jobs and labor market improving as a whole, these older workers are finding more opportunities, …and it’s opening up a lot of vacancies.”
James Cote, owner of Osterville House & Garden, Osterville, Massachusetts, expects to increase his summer hiring this year. He made his first summer hire, a high school student, just this week.
“For us, it’s been a busy year, so we probably are going to be gearing up a little bit more than in past years,” he said.
Cote’s store is located in an area with a lot of summer homes and seasonal residents, and he said the contractors and handymen coming into his store also are busier this year, signaling a long-awaited economic turnaround.
Jobs for the Experienced
Although Cotes said he has plenty of applicants for his seasonal positions, they’re younger than they have been in recent years, and less likely to have the experience he prefers.
“I’d say one of our biggest functions is customers service, so we try to have a staff that’s well-educated on our customer needs. It can be a little difficult,” to train students for such a short season, he said.
This is the edge that landed A.J. Timek his job at a local hardware store this summer. The Minnesota teen’s older brother worked there during previous summers. Last year, A.J. tagged along some Saturday mornings and helped out — sweeping, emptying trash and familiarizing himself with the store.
“It was good. I learned where a lot of other stuff was and I got close with some of the workers,” said Timek, who turns 15 this month. He tried applying a couple of months ago — a smart move, according to Challenger, who said teens usually start their summer job search too late — but was told to come back when he turned 15.
Timek said he expects to start paying for his cell phone plan and gym membership, both of which his parents pay for now. “Hopefully I’ll save a few hundred at least for college or other things on the side,” like maybe a laptop, he said.
While Timek hopes his summer job will continue through the rest of his high school career, other teens see a chance to experiment with different kinds of work before they get to college and have to make decisions that will shape their careers.
“A lot of teenagers we talk to really want to get some experience on their resume,” Costa said, and some are willing to accept unpaid positions to get that experience.
“I’m looking for an internship to do this summer,” said 17-year-old Austin Shorter. The New Jersey high school junior worked last summer at his uncle’s fashion industry business in New York City, but this year he said he wanted to try the journalism field, since he enjoys being on the school paper.
“I’m just branching out,” Shorter said. “I feel like… it’s easier to get an internship with some companies than ask for a paying job,” he said. A “fair amount” of his friends also were looking for summer internships, he added.