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Youth Summer Employment, 2019

by Oriane Casale
March 2019

A greater share of youth age 16 to 19 were employed in 2018 than at any time since 2007, just before the Great Recession started. This bodes well for employers who are facing a very tight labor market and are able to hire younger workers. It also indicates that teens are likely to continue jumping back into the labor market as long as they see an opportunity to work and earn money.

Teen Employment Trends

Teen labor force participation in Minnesota grew steadily for five years, from 45.1 percent in 2012 to 52.3 percent in 2017, and then dropped slightly to 50.7 percent in 2018. At the same time the unemployment rate for teens dropped sharply, from 18.6 percent in 2012 to 5.4 percent in 2018 (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Teen Labor Market Indicators, Minnesota, 2001-2018

While the population age 16 to 19 has grown by only 13,900 over the six year period, the number of employed teens has grown by 38,800. This is the result of the drop in the unemployment rate, with the number of unemployed teens falling by 15,700 over the six year period. As a result, a higher share of teens are employed, with the employment to population ratio up from only 36.7 percent in 2012 to 48.0 percent in 2018.

From an historical perspective teen labor force participation rates are still low, however. As Figure 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 Minnesota. By comparison, in 2018 the teen labor force participation rate was at 50.7 percent with the employment to population ratio at 48.0 percent.

Compared to the United States, however, teens in Minnesota are very much engaged in the labor market. In 2018 the labor force participation rate for teens nationwide was only 35.1 percent (roughly comparing to 50.7 percent in Minnesota), and only 30.6 percent were employed (roughly comparing to 48.0 percent in Minnesota1).

Rising labor force participation in Minnesota in this age group 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 frequent, teens are much more likely to apply for jobs.

Definitions of Labor Market Measures

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 market measures are calculated from responses to a monthly, nationwide survey of households called the Current Population Survey.

Where Do Teens Work?

Overall, teens made up 6.4 percent of the workforce during the third quarter of 2017, earning a median hourly wage of $10.37 and working, at the median, 145 hours during that quarter. Teens make up a significant portion of several industry sectors including the Accommodations and Food Services, Arts, 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 2017
Industry Share of Industry
Employment (%)
Hourly Wage
Number of
Hours Worked
Total, all industries 6.4 $10.37 145
Accommodation and Food Services 21.4 $10.01 130
Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation 16.4 $9.97 108
Retail Trade 15.0 $10.10 155
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting 11.4 $10.90 139
Other Services 8.5 $10.03 127
Source: Quarterly Employment Demographics, DEED (mn.gov/deed/data/data-tools/qed)

Teens make up even higher proportions of industries within the top three employing sectors for teens. Teens make up over 21 percent of amusement and recreation, 25 percent of clothing and accessories stores, 23 percent of food services and drinking places, 21 percent of food and beverage stores, and 19 percent of gas station staffing during the summer months.

Although few teens work in the sector, they earned the most in Construction, a median hourly wage of $15.00 per hour during third quarter 2017. Other industry sectors that provided few jobs but higher-than-average wages for teens were Manufacturing ($12.30 per hour median wage) and Financial Activities ($11.85 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 155 hours during third quarter 2017 while the total workforce was working a median of only 280 hours (520 hours during the quarter 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.

Why Hire Teens?

Teens can be extremely reliable, flexible works who are quick to learn new skills. As a result many employers value them highly as workers. Moreover, in a tight labor market like the one that Minnesota is currently experiencing, employers clearly benefit from teens' willingness to work odd hours and part-time and to learn on the job.

But 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. Getting in touch with local high schools is a good place to start the process.

Do Teens Benefit from Working?

A brief review of the literature on teens and employment suggests that teens benefit from work as long as it does not interfere with their schoolwork. Summer jobs and low intensity jobs held during the school year by older teens can keep them focused and help them learn important soft skills like time management, showing up to work on time, and appropriate behavior with coworkers and customers. Younger students, however, and those working more hours have a harder time balancing school and work.

Parents can feel comfortable encouraging their teens to pursue summer jobs. But they should keep a close eye on their working teens during the school year to make sure that they have time for homework and are getting plenty of sleep.

Tips for Recruiting Teens

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 MinnesotaWorks.net, 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 www.dli.mn.gov/business/employment-practices/child-labor-laws .

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 www.careeronestop.org/GetMyFuture/Toolkit/find-jobs 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).

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

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 that 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 to learn about occupations that don't require college but pay a good wage. Look for paid or unpaid apprenticeships or internship 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 at www.careeronestop.org/getmyfuture 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 mn.gov/deed/job-seekers 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 another disability, explore careers, and find a CareerForce Center near you.
  • Office of Youth Development website at mn.gov/deed/job-seekers/find-a-job/targeted-services/youth-employment 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. Go to www.careeronestop.org/youthprogramfinder.

1 Annual published 2018 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 December 12-month moving average unpublished CPS data.

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