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Recession Cools Summer Hiring of Teens
by Nick Beleiciks
Published Jul-10-2014

Have you noticed fewer new young faces helping you at local businesses this summer? If so, you are not imagining things. The number of workers age 14 to 18 who were able to find new jobs during the summers of the past five years was nearly one-half of what it was before the recession, accelerating a long-term downward trend in teens landing summer jobs. Teens who do find new jobs in the summer are finding them in the traditional industries of food services, agriculture, and retail trade.

Teen hiring has been slow to rebound as the economy recovers, but things could be improving. The first half of 2014 brought job growth in accommodation and food services, the sector that hires the most teens during the summer. How much of that job growth is being filled by teens will not be known until the numbers from this summer are available next year, so it will be a while before we know if teen hiring is back from its five-year vacation.

Fewer Teens Hired During Summer
Teenage workers did not escape the effects of the recession. The last five years have been just as tough for teenage job seekers as it has been for everyone, if not worse. The unemployment rate for Oregonians ages 16 to 19 was 16.4 percent in 2007. The teen unemployment rate nearly doubled during the recession and was 27.4 percent in 2013, over three times the rate for the overall labor force.

It's generally harder for teenagers to land a job than it is for older workers. Some jobs are off-limits to teens because of minimum age or educational requirements. Balancing typical teen activities such as school, sports, and hanging-out makes it difficult for many teens to find time to work. Add transportation challenges to that and it's a wonder how teens are able to get hired at all.

Although the odds of finding a job seem stacked against them, teenagers are able to find summer work. Oregon employers hired roughly 30,400 new workers ages 14 to 18 in July, August, or September of 2013. That was 2,000 more teens who found work than the previous summer, so things are looking up. The summer is always the busiest time of year for teen hiring, but it slowed during the recession and did not recover through 2012. Hiring in this age group during the summers of 2009 to 2012 was down 43 percent from summer 2007 (Graph 1). To a large extent, teen hiring is driven by economic conditions, but there is also a general downward trend in teen hiring and teens working during the summer. Teenagers are now 2.1 percent of Oregon's summer workforce, down from 3.4 percent less than a decade ago.

This measure of teenage new hires specifically counts those who started working in the third quarter for an employer they had not worked for within the last year. That includes summer seasonal workers and year-round workers who switched employers during the third quarter, but does not include workers who started their summer job in June or earlier.

Graph 1
Teen hiring halved in recession
Food Service and Agriculture Hire the Most Teens
Teenagers are able to find work during the summer in all the major industry sectors. Perhaps not surprisingly, summer new hires for those ages 14 to 18 were most common in industries that hired the most workers of any age. Just 10 percent of all summer new hires in Oregon are teens. Some industry sectors do have a higher concentration of newly hired teenagers. Nineteen percent of new hires in arts, entertainment, and recreation, and 17 percent of accommodation and food services new hires are ages 14 to 18. Agriculture and related industries, retail trade, other services, and the public sector also hire more teens than average during the summer.

The detailed list of industries with the most teenage new hires is topped by food services and drinking places. About 23 percent of newly hired teens worked in food services, which had nearly 6,900 new hires in the third quarter of 2013 (Graph 2).

New hire levels in 2013 were much lower than 2007 levels in many of the top industries for teens. Hiring was down across the service industries. In the third quarter of 2013, food services and drinking places hired 41 percent fewer teens than they did in the same period of 2007. Hiring of teens by the administrative and support services, which largely consists of temporary help services, was down by one-third.

Teens are having better luck finding jobs in agriculture. Summer teen hiring for crop production and in support activities for agriculture and forestry rebounded and surpassed pre-recession levels. These industries largely escaped the employment losses felt by the rest of the economy during the recession.

Information about Oregon workers by age group is from Local Employment Dynamics (LED) data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau. To explore and use the data available from LED, visit http://lehd.ces.census.gov/.

Graph 2
Businesses have cut back on hiring teens