Summer Youth Hiring in the Rogue Valley

by Guy Tauer

June 7, 2018

One youth who had a profitable start to her summer employment experience last year is 21 year-old Jelena Ostapenko. After never winning any previous singles titles on the Women’s Tennis Association circuit, the Latvian dark-horse unseeded player won the women’s title at the French Open Grand Slam tournament in June 2017, to collect nearly $2.3 million in prize money earnings. Most other teens and youth workers won’t be quite as well-off, even if they do find work this summer. In 2018 Ms. Ostapenko wasn’t as fortunate, losing in the first round attempt at defending her French Open tennis title. But she probably still won’t have to work in retail trade or in the hospitality industry like many teens will this summer.
Youth and teen unemployment rates have been steadily decreasing in Oregon following the Great Recession that lasted from late 2007 until mid-2009 and significantly affected the employment outlook for several 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 15.9 percent. Oregon’s economic recovery over the next six years improved job market conditions for youth workers. By 2017, the unemployment rate for 16 to 19 year olds fell to 9.5 percent – still higher than the overall rate for all ages, but down sharply from the year before. For workers ages 20 to 24, the unemployment rate last year was estimated at 7.6 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 season 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 the 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 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 16 to 19 year-olds will decline to 28.5 percent. The decrease was not as dramatic for the 20-to-24 age group, but it still declined about 10 percentage points during the past 15 years.

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 job seekers of all ages, including youth workers.

Summer Youth Employment Trends

Summer (third quarter) youth total hires, including new hires as well as recall hires, peaked in the Rogue Valley in the year 2000 at about 7,900. During the Great Recession, summer youth hiring plunged by about half to only reach only about 4,000 from 2009 to 2012. During the subsequent five summers, youth hiring rebounded and recovered by 2017 to reach almost three-fourths of the series peak summer 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 14 to 21 years of age. Six years later in 2017, the youth percent of total summer hires climbed only slightly to 20.7 percent. In addition to long-term declines in labor force participation among youth, demographic trends are suppressing 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 more than one-half of total Rogue Valley summer youth hires in 2017. The next largest industry hiring youth during the summer was health care and social assistance, with a distant 500 total hires. Looking at younger and older youth trends, accommodation and food services hired more youth ages 14 to 18 (1,076) than 19 to 21 year-olds (822). On the other hand, retail trade hired more 19 to 21 year-olds (740) than workers ages 14 to 18 (487). In most other industries, older youth held a slight edge in total summer hires compared with younger youth.
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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