Summer Hiring of Teens in Oregon

by Nick Beleiciks

July 26, 2017

Summer break from school has traditionally meant a summer job. A generation ago, more than half of all teenagers had a job or were looking for one. The summer work scene has changed a lot since then. Now only one out of three teenagers has a job or is looking for one. Many teens are purposely skipping the dough and early work experience in order to focus on formal education and school activities.

A few years ago, teens who wanted to work faced stiff competition for jobs by adults who were out of work. Adults tend to have more experience, flexible schedules, and fewer restrictions on their activities and the hours they can work. It’s natural for many employers to prefer hiring adults when they are available, rather than hiring teens. However, Oregon’s record-low unemployment means there are fewer adults looking for jobs, so employers have turned to hiring teens again.

It’s Getting Easier for Teens to Find Summer Jobs

In summer 2016, more than 33,000 teens age 14 to 18 found jobs at an employer they hadn’t worked for within the last year. That was far more than the number of teens finding work during the summers following the Great Recession, so it’s much easier for teens to find jobs now than it was a few years ago. Still, far fewer teens were hired last summer than in 2006 when 45,000 teens were hired, or the chart-topping summer of 1996 when nearly 63,000 teens found new jobs.
What Types of Jobs do 14 and 15 Year-Olds Have?

As businesses get back in the habit of hiring teens for certain jobs, it’s important to remember that employers must have an Employment Certificate from the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), which is free for the employer. Working hours are limited according to age and whether or not school is in session. All minors are prohibited from working hazardous occupations.

That may sound like a lot of limitations, but there are plenty of jobs available for teens ages 14 and 15 years. BOLI’s Employment of Minors brochure lists examples of the types of jobs filled by workers this age.

  • Office work of all kinds
  • Wholesale and retail stores and services
  • Restaurants and hotels
  • Car washes
  • Service stations
  • Theaters and amusement parks
  • Parks and yard maintenance
  • Nursing homes and hospitals
  • Daycare centers
  • Pet grooming and care
  • Agricultural work
  • Entertainment productions
Food Services Hire the Most Teens

Teenagers can find summer work in a variety of businesses, but summer hiring is more common in certain industries. While 10 percent of all summer new hires in Oregon were teens in 2016, they made up 18 percent of hires in arts, entertainment, and recreation, 18 percent in accommodation and food services, and 13 percent of new hires in retail trade. Teens were 10 percent of new summer hires in agriculture and related industries, and the public sector. Other sectors were less likely to hire teens.

The list of industries with the most teen new hires during the summer is topped by food services and drinking places. About 28 percent of newly hired teens worked in food services, which had more than 9,000 new hires in the third quarter of 2016.
A common requirement for these jobs is an Oregon Food Handler Card. The card certifies that the worker had food safety training from an Oregon-approved provider. More information is available from the Oregon Health Authority’s food handler certification webpage.

Administrative and support services made up 7 percent of summer new teen hires. This group of businesses includes temporary help agencies, which hire a lot of 14 to 18 year olds who work for a variety of businesses.

Another big source of summer hiring is crop production, which accounted for 6 percent of all teen summer new hires in 2016.

Highest Paying Industries for Teens

Newly hired teens who work throughout the summer are bringing home more cheddar than just a few years ago. According to the latest data from third quarter 2015 (2016 earnings data are not yet available), the average earnings of teens working in Oregon were $952 per month.

The average summer scratch earned by teens has been rising steadily since 2011 when summer earnings were just $842, an all-time low after adjusting for inflation (data starts in 1992). Teens working throughout the summer earned the most in 1999, when the average was more than one grand per month.

Teens working summer jobs in construction and manufacturing tend to make the fattest stacks, with average monthly earnings over $1,600. In the summer of 2016, more than 1,700 teens were hired in manufacturing, and nearly 1,300 were hired in construction. Most of those hires were probably 18 years old because minors are prohibited from working hazardous occupations such as using power driven woodworking machines and power saws, or work in demolition and roofing. A list of prohibited hazardous occupations is available on BOLI’s Employment of Minors brochure.

Becoming a Taxpayer

Working summer jobs provides training, experience, and responsibility that can only be found on the job. One responsibility is paying income taxes. To that end, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers a webpage on tips for teenage taxpayers with summer jobs.

It’s Not Too Late to Say “You’re Hired”

Teens getting a jump on their job search can start working in June as soon as school ends, but it’s not too late to find work this summer. Employers still hire workers this late into the summer. In fact, hiring numbers used in this article are for teens starting jobs during the months of July, August, and September.

Summer job seekers off to a late start can up their search game by expanding the number of job search methods used. Young people are less likely to use friends or relatives to help them find a job, but they should be using these resources more. A personal reference can go a long way to help a new worker compensate for their lack of work experience.

Teens are also less likely to use a public employment agency. This means they could be missing a lot of opportunities available to young people. Job listings in Oregon can be found through the online Job Finder search tool. Search for jobs commonly worked by young people, such as “dishwasher,” and scan the results for positions in your area that look promising for teens.

More job search resources are available at Oregon’s local Worksource Centers.

For more information about long-term trends in youth employment, see the Employment Department’s 2014 report Endangered: Youth in the Labor Force.

Information about Oregon workers by age group is from Quarterly Workforce Indicators (QWI) data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau. To explore and use the data available from QWI, visit

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