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Teen Summer Job Outlook: Partly Sunny

As retailers continue to cut in-store workers, high school and college students will have to look elsewhere for summer jobs. This could bode well for companies with seasonal and part-time positions to fill.

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Industries that have been adding jobs suited to teen summer employment include transportation, hospitality and food service, and construction, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Why Employ Teens

These are by no means the only industries that have opportunities for young workers. With the national unemployment rate at 4.3 percent, and the unemployment rate in more than half of the 50 states even lower, many companies face a serious worker shortage.

Employing teens isn’t without challenges. Unskilled workers require training and ongoing supervision.

But giving young people opportunities to acquire skills, including the soft skills so many employers say high school and college graduates lack, helps build a better workforce, which benefits business in the long run.

Teen Hiring Up Last Year

In 2016, 1,335,000 teens found summer jobs, the most since 2013, according to research from Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Strong summer hiring helped boost last year’s total employment among 16- to 19-year-olds to 6,040,000, which is the highest number of employed teens since August 2008, when 6,142,000 teenagers were working.

Unemployment Among Teens

Yet, even though overall unemployment remains low, unemployment among teens remains high.

As of April 2017, the national unemployment rate for 16- to 19-year-olds stands at 14.7 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For 16- to 17-year-olds, it is 16.8 percent.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas research finds that teen employment figures are well below the employment levels of the late 1990s and early 2000s, when it was common to see 7.0 million to 8.5 million teenagers employed at the peak of the summer job surge.

“In 1978, more than 10 million teenaged baby boomers were working in July,” said John Challenger, CEO of the firm.

The percentage of teenagers who work has been declining since the 1970s. Currently, only about 32 percent of teens participate in the labor force, a figure that has held steady since the end of the recession.

More Opportunities for Teens

If economic conditions continue to improve, that may change.

The number of people working part-time for economic reasons has declined in the past year, as more people presumably found full-time jobs. In April 2017, 8.6 percent fewer people held part-time jobs for economic reasons, compared to April 2016, according to analysis based on BLS data.

These part-time positions may be well suited to teen workers, Challenger said.