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Youth Summer Employment 2018

by Oriane Casale
March 2018

Young people age 16 to 19 have been jumping back into Minnesota's labor force and finding jobs. This bodes well for employers who have positions to fill this summer and for teens who want to work.

Teen labor force participation in Minnesota steadily grew over the last five years, from 46.1 percent in 2013 to 52.3 percent in 2017. While the overall population age 16 to 19 has not grown, down 1,000 over the period, the number of teens in the labor force has grown by 16,600, and the number of employed teens has grown by 22,000. At the same time the number of unemployed teens has decreased by 5,300. As a result, a higher share of teens are employed, with the employment to population ratio up from only 39.4 percent in 2013 to 47.1 percent in 2017.

Despite these positive numbers, the teen unemployment rate was still quite high in 2017 at 9.8 percent. Since then it has come down to 7.7 percent in March 2018 with a continued positive trend in the employment to population ratio, which is now at 48.9 percent.

Where Do Teens Work?

Teens make up a significant portion of several industries including the Accommodations and Food Services, Art, Entertainment and Recreation, and Retail Trade industries, particularly during the summer months (see Table 1).

Table 1. Teen Share of Industry Workforce, Hourly Wage and Hours Worked, Minnesota, Third Quarter 2016
Industry Share of Industry Employment (%) Median Hourly Wage ($) Number of Hours Worked
Accommodation and Food Services 24.2 9.55 127
Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation 18.0 9.47 108
Retail Trade 16.6 9.87 149
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting 13.0 10.10 128
Other Services 8.7 9.85 126
Source: Quarterly Employment Demographics, DEED (

More specifically, teens make up over 28 percent of movie theater, 26 percent of clothing and accessories store, 25 percent of food services and drinking place, 22 percent of food and beverage store and 20 percent of gas station staffing.

Teens earned the most in the Construction industry, a median hourly wage of $13.61 per hour during third quarter 2016. Other industries that provided higher-than-average wages for teens were Health Care and Social Assistance ($11.12 per hour median wage), Management of Companies ($10.21 per hour median wage), and Manufacturing ($10.11 per hour median wage).

Teens tend to work part-time even in the summer but also tend to be hired into industries that hire few full-time positions. For example, in Retail Trade teens worked a median of 149 hours during third quarter while the total workforce was working a median of only 289 hours (520 hours would be full-time). Median hours for the total workforce in Accommodation and Food Services, Arts, Entertainment and Recreation, and Other Services were even lower.

Historical and Comparative Perspective

From a historical perspective teen labor force participation rates are still low, although they have been rising steadily since 2013. As Chart 1 shows, during the early 2000s the teen labor force participation rate was as high as 64 percent with the employment to population ratio at 58.8 percent. In 2017 the teen labor force participation rate was at 52.3 percent with the employment to population ratio at 47.1 percent.

Figure 1. Teen Labor Market Indicators, Minnesota, 2001 to 2017

Compared to the United States, however, teens in Minnesota are very much engaged in the labor market. In 2017 the labor force participation rate for teens nationwide was only 35.2 percent, roughly compared to 52.3 percent in Minnesota and only 30.3 percent were employed, roughly compared to 47.1 percent in Minnesota1.

Rising labor force participation in Minnesota is an excellent sign for employers who want to hire teens. With so many things competing for teens' time – school, extracurricular activities, family responsibilities, and friends - teens are likely to forgo job search in a slack labor market. If their friends are having a difficult time finding jobs, they might not even bother to look. But when their peers are finding jobs, or they see help wanted signs in their neighborhood and at locations they often go to, teens are much more likely to apply for jobs.

Minnesota's teen unemployment rate dropped to 8.0 percent in 2016 but ticked up in 2017. However, it seems to be on a downward trend again at 7.7 percent in March 2018. The low teen unemployment rate is no doubt a sign of the times, with overall low unemployment rates, high numbers of vacancies, and steady job growth over the past several years in Minnesota

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. 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, US.Jobs, 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 employees ages 14 to 17. You can find information on the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry website at

Tips for Teens Who Want to 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, helping a family member or friend like babysitting 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.
  • Have a list of one to three references that you can hand potential employers. The list should include someone you've worked for, even if you didn't get paid or you were one of many volunteers. It should have names and emails and/or phone numbers.
  • Go to 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.
  • 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.

What if you get multiple job offers? 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? Can you reliably get there on time for each shift? Which 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 Teens Seeking Work

GetMyFuture website at is a great place for you to learn about finding a career, getting job experience, and getting a job.

Department of Employment and Economic Development website at is a good place to link to Minnesota's job bank, learn more about the job search process, learn about programs for teens who are blind and have a disability, explore careers, and find a Workforce Center near you.

Office of Youth Development website at 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 at a local youth program. Go to

1Annual published 2017 data for Minnesota are not yet available. The data used here for Minnesota are based on unpublished monthly Current Population Survey (CPS) data called DEMECON data. Each data point is a rollup of data for that month and the 11 months preceding it to create a 12-month moving average, so in this case the December data point is used throughout this article, representing an annual average (January to December). Unless otherwise specified, the Minnesota data in this article are a December 12-month moving average unpublished CPS data.

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