Youth Summer Hiring in Linn and Benton Counties

by Pat O'Connor

August 23, 2017

The summer break from school has traditionally meant a summer job for the youth in Linn and Benton counties. However, in recent decades the share of teens and young adults seeking summer jobs has decreased. Many teens are passing on early work experience opportunities to focus on formal education and other activities during the summer. A few years back, after the last recession, youth struggled to find employment as they had to compete with older adults seeking employment. Typically, an adult has more experience and fewer restrictions on the hours one is available to work compared with younger job seekers.   

In the early 1990s, nearly one out of three workers (32%) hired in Linn and Benton counties during the summer were youth (ages 14 to 21). In recent years, only about one out of four (25%) workers hired in the summer were youth. That trend in hiring was similar statewide. In the summer of 1991, 28 percent of Oregon’s hires were youth. In the summer of 2016, youth hires accounted for only 20 percent of Oregon’s hires.   
In terms of the numbers, peak hiring of youth for summer jobs occurred in 1996, when more than 7,500 were hired in Linn and Benton counties. The low point for summer youth hiring was in 2009 – fewer than 2,900 youth were hired that summer. Youth hiring has bounced back since 2009. In the summer of 2016, nearly 4,000 youth were hired.

The industries that youth work in have shifted over the past 25 years. Agriculture and the food service industry are two large and important industries in Linn and Benton counties, and we see that reflected in youth summer hiring. In 1991, nearly one out of five, or 19 percent, of the youth hired during the summer worked in accommodation and food services in Linn and Benton counties, many within food services. In 2016, 23 percent of the area’s youth hired that summer worked in accommodation and food services. Statewide, 25 percent of Oregon’s youth hired in the summer of 2016 worked in accommodation and food services.

In 1991, 16 percent of the youth hired that summer worked in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting. In Linn and Benton counties, nearly all of that employment is within agriculture. In 2016, the share of summertime youth hires had increased slightly to 17 percent of the total summer youth hires. Statewide, only about 8 percent of the summertime youth hires were in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting.
Retail trade hires a similar share of Linn and Benton counties’ youth compared with 25 years ago. In 1991, retail trade accounted for 14 percent of the summertime youth hires in the area. In the summer of 2016, it accounted for 13 percent of the youth hires. Statewide, retail trade accounted for nearly 18 percent of the youth hires for the summer of 2016.

Another large sector that now hires a larger share of the area’s youth compared with 25 years ago is health care and social assistance. In the summer of 1991, the industry accounted for 5 percent of youth hires in Linn and Benton counties. In the summer of 2016, it accounted for 10 percent of youth hires in the area.

Future Trends?

Summer youth hires have perked up the last three years in Linn and Benton counties. In 2017, the area’s labor market has become very tight as the area experiences a very low unemployment rate. Judging by the number of “now hiring” signs posted at businesses in Linn and Benton counties this summer, the tight labor market should hopefully encourage a higher number of youth in the two counties to find a summer job. We will have to wait until 2018 for data to be available to see how things panned out in the summer of 2017 for youth hiring.


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