As pandemic restrictions loosen, businesses reopen and employers struggle to recruit, teens are flooding the job market to fill the workforce gap.
The number of working 16-19 year-olds jumped to almost 32% in June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, up from around 25% a year earlier, when the pandemic cut millions of low-wage opportunities. In the 1970s, adolescent employment was almost 50%.
“I think I wanted to work, you know, start saving, so I’ll be good when I go to college,” said Yahir Parada, 18.
The recent Denver high school graduate said he had worked as a lifeguard for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department for a few years now, and he said money wasn’t the only reason he was looking for a employment.
“I think I was mainly looking for more experience and connections that I can use in the future,” Parada said.
Anesia Woods, 17, of Crowley, Texas, has just graduated from high school equivalency and is training to become an after-school program director in her babysitting job. Woods said she was thinking about what her income might mean for her family.
“I have 11 siblings so it was a bit difficult growing up, like eating situations and clothes for all these kids,” Woods said. “I want to support them, so I’m just trying to encourage them to, like, achieve greatness.”
Parada said he is making $ 15 an hour as a lifeguard and is happy with the pay for now.
“When I started being a lifeguard, I got paid around $ 11 an hour, and it didn’t really go up after a few months of working,” Parada said.
Woods said she makes $ 11 an hour at her job. And although she is comfortable with the salary at the moment, she plans to earn more in the future.
“When I’m older, I plan, for example, to look for something that has a better amount of money,” Woods said. “But I’d rather do what I love and earn less money than do something I don’t like.”