With higher pay and better hours, teens are jumping into the job market

The teens come to the rescue of business owners struggling to find enough workers in one of the hottest job markets in decades.

Teenagers are now working in greater numbers than before the 2008-09 financial crisis, when summer and part-time jobs were a more common rite of passage into adulthood, according to government statistics. They have become particularly essential in the retail, tourism and hospitality sectors, which many adults have abandoned during the pandemic.

Unemployment among workers aged 16 to 19 was 10.2% in April, below the 68-year low of 9.6% it hit in May last year, figures showed on Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall, about a third of American teens in this age group are now working, according to federal data.

macayla mcdonald


Photo:

Monia McDonald

Many business owners say finding a teenager hiring can be difficult. They monitor job fairs for teens, flex schedules and increase training to welcome and attract young recruits.

For teens, current conditions are shaping up to create one of the best summer job markets in years, with more options and, in many cases, better pay.

Makayla McDonald, 17 in Montgomery, Ala., is returning to lifeguard work this summer. She first landed it a year ago as part of an effort by the city’s mayor to encourage teenage work.

‘I really enjoy working,’ said Ms McDonald, who splits her paychecks between college savings, church contributions, a fund for a loungewear business she hopes to start and spend money to get their hair done or their nails done. “My mom is a single mom, so I could see the value of working hard and getting paid for it,” she said.

Last summer, Ms. McDonald worked 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. six days a week, manning a lifeguard post in the Alabama heat and reminding swimmers to walk, not run, on the deck. The job was challenging – frogs from a nearby stream sometimes ended up in the pool. Still, she befriended her co-workers and relished the $10 an hour she earned.

Before the pandemic, teen employment had been declining for five decades. Economists say automation has eliminated many low-wage jobs, while immigrants have taken on others.

According to Alicia Sasser Modestino, a labor economist who studies the youth workforce, more adults took certain jobs to make ends meet in the aftermath of the 2008-2009 financial crisis, often in part-time positions than teenagers usually occupied before.

The life of many teenagers have also changed. Extracurricular activities, unpaid internships, and resume-writing volunteer opportunities have filled hours that previously might have been spent stocking shelves or scooping up ice cream.

Ms. McDonald, for example, balances her attendance at one of the most rigorous high schools in the country with her participation in honor societies, student government, the debate team, the step team, the softball and various local volunteer positions.

The first pandemic lockdowns pushed teen unemployment to an all-time high of 31.9% in April 2020. Today, a tight job market and rising wages in hourly jobs that teens are more likely to face accept create a windfall of jobs.

“Adult workers said, ‘I don’t want this crazy low-wage service job that has a ridiculous schedule, few benefits and rude customers,'” Ms. Modestino said. towards young people”.

A summer job fair for teens in Arlington, Va., on a recent Saturday drew about 700 attendees, including about 100 parents — a larger crowd than at recent adult job events, organizers say. . The event, in-person for the first time since 2019, helped teen job seekers connect with 30 employers for positions in retail, hospitality, catering, camp summer and water parks.

McCauley Masley, an eighth-grade student who attended the fair, said she was looking for a job that would allow her to increase her allowance for trips to Target and CVS and meals with friends.

Shira Alatin


Photo:

Maya Alatin

Plus, “I wanted to look to get a job for the experience as soon as possible to put on resumes,” she said.

Although she felt nervous chatting with a representative from a local AMC theater, she said she plans to apply for a job there when she turns 14 in June. The work would be his first beyond a few house and pet sitting gigs for relatives and friends.

Itai Ben Eli, a Houston restaurateur, said being someone’s first employer comes with added responsibilities, but the investment is worth it. A staff almost entirely made up of teenagers, whom he said he lured with pay rises, allowed him to open a European-style bakery, Badolina, last June when he could not find the adult workers whose he needed.

He’s adapted accordingly, extending a 10-day training process into a month where his new hires shadow more experienced workers, learn the menu, practice using a POS system and build their confidence. speaking with customers.

“We could mold them and teach them what is important to us,” Ben Eli said. He has since promoted two of the teenagers he hired in Badolina to shift supervisor.

Shira Alatin, 17, started working at Badolina last summer when the pandemic upended her typical summer plans, such as an annual family trip to Israel. There, she took on different responsibilities: cleaning tables, delivering food and making coffee drinks. Her parents and older sister all started working young, so a job seemed like a natural way to fill her time and earn money, she said.

“I like the interactions,” said Ms Alatin, who continued to work at the bakery on weekends when school resumed. Later this month, she also begins a job as a weeknight hostess at Hamsa, one of Mr. Ben Eli’s other restaurants. “A lot of Israelis come in; I was speaking to them in Hebrew and they were really surprised,” she said.

Write to Kathryn Dill at [email protected]

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