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Teen Summer Employment 2024

by Nick Dobbins and Oriane Casale
April 2024

Summer is an important time for teen workers, as some make their moves into full-time employment after finishing their education, and others seek temporary work for the season to build a resume and earn money, often for the first time. Entering the summer of 2024, the market appears strong for young workers. The unemployment rate for teens is low, and labor force participation among teens is higher than it was in pre-pandemic years as young workers step up to fill needs in the market.

Minnesota teens are highly engaged in the labor force, which is great news for employers who are struggling to fill vacancies in a very tight labor market. It also suggests a good summer for teens seeking to enter the labor force, as employers are motivated to hire teens to fill out their payrolls.

Current Teen Employment Situation

Youth unemployment spiked in the early days of the pandemic, as younger workers were more likely to be employed in customer-facing service industries such as retail and food service, sectors that were particularly hard hit by the pandemic response. Recovery was quick for the teen labor force, however. As Figure 1 shows, pandemic-era teen unemployment peaked in January of 2021 at 13.8%, and by December 2021 that number was all the way down to 5.4%, matching the lowest annual average on record dating back to 2001.

Teen Labor Force Indicators

Teen employment has grown by 33,000 since 2021 (2021 annual average to April of 2024), although it is off by 8,433 from it's peak in 2002. The teen labor force is up 35,100 since 2021, with a total of 174,000 as of April 2024, and appears to be still growing. The teen unemployment rate was at 5.3% as of the end of 2023, an annual low, and sat at 5.5% in April 2024. Total teen unemployment was 9,400 in 2023 and 10,200 in April 2024. These near-record numbers indicate a robust teen labor force that is taking advantage of the tight post-pandemic labor market in Minnesota. This is good news for employers with vacancies to fill, and for teens looking for summer jobs or who are beginning to enter the labor force full time.

According to Minnesota's Quarterly Employment Demographics data teens held 7.3% of all jobs in the state in the third quarter of 2022, and 5.4% in the first quarter of 2023, the most recent available data. The third quarter rate is the highest since 2015, although still down from the overall high point of the early 2000s, when the teen share of employment was regularly above 9% in the summer quarter which is when the teen workforce share reaches its peak each year.

Teens earned a median hourly wage of $15.02 per hour and worked a median of 145 hours over the quarter during third quarter 2022. Earnings climbed to $15.53 per hour in the first quarter of 2023, with a median number of hours per quarter down to 112. This puts hourly wages at record highs in a series going back to 2003. Median hourly wages grew 13.4% over the year for teens, almost double inflation and well above wage growth for all workers in Minnesota, which was at 6% over the same period. Quarterly median hours worked ticked down by four hours or about three-tenths of an hour per week over the year during third quarter 2022. First quarter hours were up six, from 106 in 2022 to 112 in 2023.

The teen hourly median wage in third quarter 2022 was 62.4% of the median wage of all workers. This is well above any other year dating back to 2003, with the previous highest ratio in 2021 at 58.3%. Before 2021 teen median hourly wages ranged from 48% to 57% of median wages for all workers.

Definitions of Labor Force Indicators

  • Labor Force Participation Rate: The share of the population, in this case teens age 16 to 19 in Minnesota, who are either working at least one hour for pay the week of the survey, or who were actively looking for work by sending out resumes, filling out applications, and/or meeting with potential employers.
  • Employment to Population Ratio: The share of the population, teens age 16 to 19 in Minnesota, who were working at least one hour for pay during the week of the survey.
  • Unemployment Rate: The share of the population, teens age 16 to 19 in Minnesota, who were actively looking for work by sending out resumes, filling out applications, and/or meeting with potential employers.

These labor force measures are calculated from responses to a monthly nationwide survey of households called the Current Population Survey. In Minnesota 12-month moving average data are used because of the small sample size. December's 12-month moving averages represent the midpoint of each year and are what is displayed in the table below.

Where Teens Find Jobs

Numerous industries fill their workforces with a significant number of teens, especially in the summer months. As Table 1 shows, teen share of total employment was 7.3% in third quarter 2022 but decreased to 5.4% by first quarter 2023, the most recent data available, which is the typical seasonal pattern for teens whose primary activity is school.

Table 1: Teen Share of Industry Employment, Hourly Earnings, and Hours Worked, Top 5 Industries, Minnesota, Third Quarter 2022
Industry Share of Industry Employment in Q3 2022 (%) Share of Industry Employment in Q1 2023 (%) Median Hourly Wage, Q3 2022 Number of Hours Worked, Q3 2022
Total, all industries 7.3% 5.4% $15.02 145
Accommodation and Food Services 26.8% 22.2% $14.76 119
Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation 19.6% 11.7% $13.91 119
Retail Trade 18.4% 16.0% $14.96 159
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting 10.7% 6.7% $14.95 121
Other Services 8.0% 6.1% $14.71 134
Source: Quarterly Employment Demographics, DEED . All columns Q3 2022 unless noted

While teens comprised just 7.3% of all employment in summer 2022, they made up a very large segment of the workforce in a number of industries. In Accommodation and Food Services, they were over a quarter of the entire workforce, and that number stayed above 20% in the first quarter of 2023, which means the industry's reliance on teen labor is not limited to summer months.

Of the five industries with the largest share of teen employment, median hourly wage and median quarterly hours worked were both highest in Retail Trade, at $14.96 and 159 hours respectively. The lowest for both marks was Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation, at $13.91 and 119 hours. That sector also shows the largest share of workforce decline from summer 2022 to winter of 2023, a drop of 7.9 percentage points from 19.6% of the workforce down to 11.7%.

Other sectors with large proportions of teen workers in the summer of 2022 included Public Administration (6.1%), Administrative and Waste Services (5.3%), and Construction (5.1%). Of those, the highest median wages and quarterly hours were in Construction, which paid $20.03 an hour with an average of 392 hours worked.

2024 Outlook

Much like last year, the overall employment outlook for teens appears good heading into the summer of 2024. Hiring remains strong statewide, and while total employment has surpassed pre-pandemic highs, employment in key industries for teens remain below those levels. According to Current Employment Statistics estimates Retail Trade employment in April 2024 was 4,100 below February 2020, Accommodation and Food Services was 800 below, and Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation was 2,300 below. This uneven recovery is good news for teens looking to enter the job market this summer, as industries that disproportionally rely on younger workers to fill out their payrolls are many of the same ones that have been struggling to return to their pre-pandemic employment levels.

Tips for Recruiting Teens

Teens can be extremely reliable, flexible workers who are quick to learn new skills. As a result, many employers value them highly as workers. Beyond meeting immediate staffing needs, employers should also think of summer hiring as an opportunity to build their workforce pipeline. Helping teens see your industry as a viable career option can help you in the long run. Offering summer internships, apprenticeships, or on-the-job training opportunities to teens can help build a pipeline of workers for your industry and help you establish relationships that may further your business in the future.

Here are some tips for recruiting teen workers. Teens have never known a world without the World Wide Web. The first place many will go to find a job is the internet so make sure that you have an attractive website, on-line job application, or easy instructions on how to apply, or that you're posting jobs on job boards like,, or America's Job Exchange that teens are likely to find.

Ask your teen workers to tell their friends that you're hiring. Teens are natural networkers and can help you get the word out about open positions.

Make sure that you're adhering to child labor rules and keeping your teen workers safe. Rules vary for kids ages 14 to 17. You can find information on the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry website.

Tips for Teens Looking for Work

If you are new to the job application process, here are some tips for you. Mostly you'll be filling out applications, but it can be helpful to put together a one-page resume. A resume should include how to contact you, any jobs both paid and unpaid you've had, volunteer experience, such as helping a family member or friend or babysitting for your sibling or neighbor, where you go to school, or your school history. Then have someone read it and give you feedback. Make sure there are no spelling or punctuation errors and make it look nice. Having a resume will also help you fill out job applications by making sure you have all the information you need handy.

Have a list of one to three references that you can give potential employers. If possible, the list should include someone you've worked for, even if you didn't get paid or were one of many volunteers. It should have names and emails and/or phone numbers.

Do your research on the business so that you know what they sell, make, or provide and so that you have some idea of what your role might be or how you could contribute. Also, if possible, see how people are dressed on the job and dress that way, making sure you look neat and professional for the interview.

Lots of teen jobs are located outside of the center cities so it can be hard to find work if you don't have access to a car or someone who can drive you. Think about your options for public transit. What businesses, entertainment sites, and shopping districts can you get to? You might need to cover the bus/train fare out of pocket until you get your first paycheck so make sure you have some money saved.

Visit the CareerOneStop GetMy Future Toolkit to search for job openings, ask family and friends if they know of companies that are hiring, and look for help wanted signs in your neighborhood and other places you often go.

In an interview let the employer know that you are reliable, show up to work on time every day ready to work, and that you are eager to learn.

Be persistent. Apply for lots of jobs. Almost no one gets the first, second, or third job they apply for. Keep trying. You can ask employers who turned you down to give you feedback. They may (or may not), and it may be helpful (or not), but it is worth asking and shows that you're serious about finding a job.

If you get multiple job offers here are a couple of things to think about: Does it seem like a good place to work? Will you learn anything new? Which will look best on your resume in the future? Can you reliably get there on time for each shift? Which job pays the most, and is there any room for negotiating wage? It doesn't hurt to ask, and the employer might say yes.

Resources for Teen Job Seekers

For teens who plan to go on to higher education, the military, or another post-high school option, just getting work experience and earning a paycheck may be enough.

For teens who plan to enter the workforce directly after high school, finding a job with on-the-job training or in an industry in which you see yourself working in the future could provide a road map to financial independence after high school.

If you fall into this category, the resources below are especially important for you to spend some time exploring. Use your summer down time to learn about occupations that don't require college but pay a good wage. Look for paid or unpaid apprenticeships or internships in occupations that interest you. Be open to any training that an employer or program offers so that you can gain specific work skills. Try to figure out how to tie your career interests to school so that you can spend your junior and/or senior year taking classes that support that interest. Most importantly, reach out to counselors and teachers at school and adults in other areas of your life who might be helpful, and ask for advice and help figuring out your next step. Finding a career path takes work but it pays off in the end.

Below are some resources to help teens find employment and explore careers:

  • GetMyFuture website is a great place for you to learn about finding a career, getting job experience, and getting a job.
  • has a simple set of steps for young people to take when they want to find employment now or plan for their future career.
  • Department of Employment and Economic Development website lets you link to Minnesota's job bank, learn more about the job search process, learn about programs for teens who are blind or have a disability, explore careers, and find a CareerForce Center near you.
  • Office of Youth Development website provides resources to young adults who have dropped out of high school or are in danger of doing so or who have other barriers to employment. This website can help you connect to programs and people who can help you with your next step in life.
  • Use the Youth Program Finder to find free job, career, and training assistance for youth.
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