Summer gains: The teen job market is beefing back up

Looking to scoop ice cream this summer? It’ll pay off for you.

teen labor force participation over time

Olivia Heller

We recently explored astronomically priced, and themed, summer camps. Here’s a tip, teen readers: Get in on the action.

In April, the Department of Labor reported 5.7m unemployed job seekers and 10.1m job openings. The shortage is helping pump wages, especially for teens, whose median weekly summer pay rose 7% between 2019 and 2022, more than any other age group.

Shift happens

In May, 36.8% of US teens were working or seeking work, up from a pre-pandemic low of 32.5% in 2014, but far from the consistent 50%+ seen up until 2001.

Economists attribute the dip to priority shifts — e.g., schooling, unpaid internships, and extracurriculars, according to WSJ.

One place these trends are noticeable: Pools and beaches, where lifeguard shortages are leading to limited openings.

  • Seattle’s lifeguard staffing levels are so dire, the city has raised the starting wage to $21+/hour.

BTW: Nebraska had America’s highest teen employment rate in summer 2022, at 65.9%. Hawaii had the lowest, at 23.7%, and we’re honestly not sure who deserves bragging rights.

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