Summer Youth Hiring in the Rogue Valley

by Guy Tauer

June 15, 2017

One youth who has had a profitable start to her summer employment experience is 20 year-old Jelena Ostapenko. She had not won any previous singles titles on the Women’s Tennis Association circuit. In June 2017, the Latvian dark-horse unseeded player won the women’s title at the French Open Grand Slam tournament and collected nearly $2.3 million in prize money earnings. Most other teens and youth workers won’t be quite as fortunate, even if they do find work this summer.

Youth and teen unemployment rates have been steadily decreasing in Oregon in recent years. In 2011, the unemployment rate for 16 to 19 year olds was estimated at nearly 30 percent. For those ages 20 to 24 years, the rate was 16 percent. Oregon’s economic recovery over the next five years improved job market conditions for youth workers. By 2016, the unemployment rate for 16 to 19 year olds fell to 20 percent – still much higher than the overall rate for all ages. For workers age 20 to 24, the unemployment rate last year was estimated at 9.6 percent. Data on unemployment rates by age are not available for local areas such as the Rogue Valley. However, other indicators show improving job market conditions and economic recovery also benefitting youth workers locally. This analysis looks at summer youth hiring – a time when many teens and young adults are seeking employment.
It’s true that summer youth hiring has been on an uptick in recent years, along with declining unemployment rates that point to improvement in the youth job market. But it’s also a fact that fewer teens and young adults are participating in Oregon’s labor market. The labor force participation rate (LFPR) among Oregon’s youth and young adults (ages 16 to 24) has been falling for more than two decades, with the sharpest decline among teenagers. There are two main reasons: a growing number of adults working in jobs historically held by teens; and increasing emphasis on the demands of high school and college. From 2000 to 2016, Oregon’s LFPR for young people ages 16 to 19 dropped from 57.2 percent to 33.8 percent. By 2022, the Oregon Employment Department projects that the LFPR for those ages 16 to19 will decline to 28.5 percent. The decrease was not as dramatic for the 20 to 24 age group: their participation rate dropped from 82.1 percent in 2000 to 71.4 percent in 2016.

Recent national data also shed light on this phenomenon. Back in 1995, about 20 percent of youth ages 16 to 24 who were not in the labor force indicated that they wanted a job. By 2016, only 10.3 percent of 16 to 24 year olds who were not in labor force indicated that they wanted a job – a record low. So not only are youth labor force participation rates in long-term decline, those youth not counted in the labor force are less apt to indicate that they want a job.

Despite these longer-term downward trends for youth engagement in the workforce, recently there has been an uptick in summer youth hiring in the Rogue Valley. Surely the improving job growth trends and tightening of the labor market are benefiting jobs seekers of all ages – including youth workers.

Summer Youth Employment Trends

Summer youth total hires, including new hires as well as recall hires, peaked in the Rogue Valley in year 2000 at about 7,900. During the Great Recession, summer youth hiring plunged by about half to only 3,900 in 2011. During the subsequent five summers, youth hiring rebounded and recovered by 2016 to reach about two-thirds of the series peak hiring going back to 1991.

Another way to look at summer youth hiring is the percent of total hires during the third quarter that were workers ages 14 to 21. Back in 1995, 28.2 percent of all summer hires were workers ages 14 to 21. By 2011, only 18.9 percent of all summer hires in the Rogue Valley were ages 14 to 21. Five years later in 2016, the youth percent of total summer hires climbed only slightly to 19.9 percent. In addition to long-term declines in labor force participation among youth, demographic trends are also a culprit in this modest growth in youth share of summer hiring. As the overall workforce is aging, there is a corresponding decrease in the percent of the workforce who are between 14 and 21 years old.

Summer Hiring by Industry

By far, industries with the largest number of youth summers hires were accommodation and food services, and retail trade. Those two industries combined accounted for over one-half of total Rogue Valley summer youth hires in 2016. The next largest industry hiring youth during the summer was health care and social assistance, with a distant 453 total hires. Looking at younger and older youth trends, accommodation and food services hired more youth ages 14-18 (928) than 19 to 21 (770). On the other hand, retail trade hired more youth ages19 to 21 (789) compared with those ages 14 to 18 (485). In most other industries, older youth held a slight edge in total summer hires compared with younger youth.
Detailed Industry Summer Youth Hiring
Within the broader leisure and hospitality sector, restaurants and other eating places accounted for almost four out of five total youth summer hires in 2016. Traveler accommodations had the second largest share, at about 11 percent of leisure and hospitality summer youth hires. Relatively few hires were in performing arts companies, drinking places or museums and historical sites.
Within retail trade, the second largest broad industry category for summer youth hires, general merchandise stores, had over 300 summer youth hires in 2016. Food and beverage stores, as well as nonstore retailers were a close second and third, with about 250 summer youth hires in the Rogue Valley. Electronic and appliance stores, health and personal care stores, and furniture and home furnishing stores had relatively few summer youth hires in 2016.
If you are a youth in the Rogue Valley but can’t get your tennis ground strokes and serves to work like Ms. Ostapenko’s this summer, don’t worry. There are other industries that may have a job for you this summer, and you won’t have to travel to far-flung locations to earn a paycheck. But there probably won’t be any $2.3 million paydays waiting for you at the end of a couple weeks of work either.

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