School’s out for summer, and U.S. teens are headed for … where, exactly? Probably not to a paying job, according to Pew Research Center’s latest analysis of federal employment data.
As recently as two decades ago, roughly half of U.S. teens could expect to spend at least part of their summer vacation lifeguarding, selling T-shirts, dishing up soft-serve ice cream or otherwise working for pay. But the share of teens working during the summer has tumbled since 2000: Only about a third of teens (34.6%) had a job last summer, despite some recovery since the end of the Great Recession. And when teens do get summer jobs these days, they’re more likely to be busing tables or tending a grill than staffing a mall boutique or souvenir stand.
To understand what’s happened to the Great American Summer Job, the Center looked at the employment rate – or, more formally, the employment-population ratio – for 16- to 19-year-olds over the past seven decades. We took the average employment rate for June, July and August of each year as our measure of summer employment. (We used non-seasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for this analysis, since teen employment rises sharply in the summer months and typically peaks in July.)