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Youth Summer Employment Update: Many Opportunities for Young People Now

by Oriane Casale
March 2022

Minnesota teens have an abundance of job opportunities this summer – and many employers are paying higher wages than were paid pre-pandemic. As employers continue to build back to pre-pandemic employment levels, teens are likely to continue to be in high demand because many of the types of jobs most in demand are the ones that young people are most likely to fill.

The pandemic changed the labor market picture for teens in Minnesota. Following the end of the pandemic recession in April 2020, teen employment levels increased, teen unemployment rates fell to record lows, teen wages and hours worked rose to record highs, and teens now fill a higher share of jobs than in the years leading up to the pandemic. This is good news for employers who have summer positions to fill and for teens who want to gain work experience and earn money for expenses or college. This article includes tips for teens who are looking for work and for employers who are looking to hire teen workers.

Teen Employment Trends

The pandemic recession hit employed youth hard in 2020 because youth are most likely to work in customer facing service sector jobs, exactly the jobs that disappeared during the COVID-19 Recession. As a result, youth unemployment, age 16 to 19 year olds, rose to 13.8% in January 2021, on a 12-month moving average basis, in Minnesota. Surprisingly, though, Minnesota's youth unemployment rate stayed high for only a few months and then dropped quickly as hiring picked up. By December 2021 the youth unemployment rate was 5.4%, the lowest on record going back to 2001 and tied with a few months in 2018.

Not only is teen unemployment low but the share of teens who are employed is the highest we’ve seen since early 2008, prior to the Great Recession, and some of the highest rates on record. Prior to the Great Recession, the teen employment to population ratio hovered in the 50% to 60% range in Minnesota. But the impact of the Great Recession on the labor market allowed employers in the low-wage service sector to attract a higher share of older, more experienced workers who had more flexibility in terms of work schedules and came with fewer labor rules. As a result, the teen employment to population ratio was suppressed, hovering in the low to mid 40% range for the decade leading up to the COVID-19 Recession. Then, in December 2021, the teen employment rate in Minnesota cracked 50% and has been at or above 50% through March 2022 (12-month moving average).

Counterintuitively, the teen labor force participation rate, although on the rise, is not yet breaking any records. At 53.5% in March 2022 (12-month moving average), it was in the same range it had been in 2017 and 2018 when it hit its peak after the Great Recession. But since unemployment rates were much higher for teens in 2017 and 2018, a smaller share of teens were employed at that time than is true today.

Overall, these statistics present a picture of very high demand for teen workers heading into the summer 2022 hiring season. Moreover, it appears that teens are beginning to respond to this demand with increased participation in the labor market. This is good news for employers who are struggling to fill job vacancies, and especially those who are looking to fill summer positions in 2022. It is also good news for teens who want to gain work experience this summer and make some money to cover expenses or save for college.

Teen Labor Force Indicators

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 12 month moving averages represents the midpoint of each year and is what is displayed in the graph.

Overall, teens held 6.9% of jobs in Minnesota during second quarter 2021. This is up from 5.7% in 2020 and 6.6% in 2019. Teens held a higher share of total jobs in the early 2000s, ranging from 9.0% in 2001 to 8.5% in 2007, but saw a drop off after the Great Recession. Teens do tend to represent a higher share of employment during the third quarter of the year, but data are only available through second quarter 2021 at the time of writing, so second quarter will be used from here forward.

Teens earned a median hourly wage of $12.84 per hour and working a median of 110 hours over the quarter during second quarter 2021, or approximately 27 hours per week, in Minnesota. This puts both hourly earnings and hours worked at record highs (to the highest recorded since tracking of such data began in 2003). The number of hours worked is at a record high, tied with 2007 and 2005, as well. And teen median hourly earnings during second quarter 2021 beat out every other year on record in both nominal terms and in actual buying power (real wages)1. Not only are teen hourly earnings higher than in previous years, but they are higher in relation to all workers. The teen hourly median wage in second quarter 2021 were 57% of the median wage of all workers, compared to 56% in the previous 2 years. However, these are all record highs. Before 2019, teen median hourly wages ranged from 48% to 55% of median wages for all workers.

Where Did Teens Find Jobs in 2021?

Teens make up a significant portion of several industries including the Accommodations & Food Services, Art, Entertainment & Recreation, and Retail Trade industries, particularly during the summer months when many of these businesses hire seasonal workers. The most recent available data, second quarter 2021, is displayed in Table 1.

Table 1: Teen Share of Industry Employment, Hourly Earnings and Hours Worked, Minnesota, Second Quarter 2021

Industry Share of Industry Employment (%) Median Hourly Wage Number of Hours Worked
Total, all industries 6.9 $12.84 110
Accommodation & Food Services 26.9 $12.00 106
Arts, Entertainment, & Recreation 19.2 $11.44 62
Retail Trade 18.7 $12.65 139
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, & Hunting 10.7 $13.00 104
Other Services 7.1 $12.11 105

Source: Quarterly Employment Demographics, DEED (

Teens comprised 27% of the Accommodation & Food Services industry, 19% of Arts, Entertainment & Recreation, and 19% of Retail Trade during second quarter 2021. Without teens, companies in these industries would struggle to keep their doors open. Hours worked during the quarter were greatest in Retail Trade at 139 or around 34 hours per week. Teens worked the fewest hours in Arts, Entertainment & Recreation, which tends to offer more part time hours overall.

At $13 per hour, median wages were highest in Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing, although this was the only industry which saw a decline, albeit small, in the share of teen workers to the overall workforce in this industry in 2021. Arts, Entertainment & Recreation offered the lowest median wage at $11.44 per hour, still well above the state minimum wage of $8.42 per hour for youth under 18 and $10.33 per hour for adults working for large employers.

Compared to second quarter 2020, teens comprised a notably higher share of Arts, Entertainment & Recreation (14.5% in 2020 compared to 19.2% in 2021) and Retail Trade (15.9% in 2020 compared to 18.7% in 2021) in 2021. Moreover, they worked more hours in second quarter 2021 in Other Services (39 additional hours), Accommodation & Food Services (21 additional hours), and Arts, Entertainment & Recreation (20 additional hours), compared to one year earlier. Overall, this picture presents a labor market that is very favorable for teens who want to work. It's a good summer to look for a job!

Why Was Teen Employment Not Hit Harder by the COVID-19 Recession?

A major reason teen employment was not hit harder by the COVID-19 recession is that there was so much dynamism in the labor market during this period in exactly the sectors that teens are most likely to work. Over 600,000 people claimed unemployment insurance as a result of a layoff or an inability to work due to caring for children at home or the need to quarantine, just during the second quarter of 2020 alone, most in the very sectors that teens are most likely to find employment opportunities.

Once more businesses were able to reopen after restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus were eased or lifted altogether later in 2020, many had to rebuild their workforces as some workers had already moved on to other jobs, were no longer available to work or chose to temporarily leave the labor force until working conditions were safer. This opened up work opportunities in exactly the industries where teens are most likely to be qualified for jobs: Leisure & Hospitality, Retail Trade and Other Services. In 2021, about 141,000 teens in Minnesota worked, compared to 119,000 in 2020 and 132,500 in 2019.

2022 Outlook

As employers continue to build back to pre-pandemic employment levels, teens are likely to continue to be in high demand in the sectors listed in Table 1 as well as other sectors of the economy including Health Care & Social Assistance, Transportation & Warehousing and Construction. Based on the best available data, DEED forecasts that jobs in Minnesota will expand by 62,000 between third quarter 2021 and third quarter 2022, with 23% of that expansion in the industries in which youth are most likely to work. High turnover in these industries also opens job opportunities for youth. Overall, there should be an abundance of job opportunities for youth who want to work this summer.

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. 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.

Here are some tips for recruiting teen workers. Teens have never known a world without the internet. The first place many will go to find a job is online so make sure that you have an attractive website, on-line job application and easy instructions on how to apply, or that you’re posting jobs on websites like

Contact a CareerForce location near you for assistance in reaching and recruiting teen employees.

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 at

Tips for Teens Who Want to Work

If you are new to the job application process, here are some tips for you. You’ll likely be filling out application forms to apply to most jobs, but it can still be helpful to put together a one page resume. A resume should include how to contact you, any jobs you’ve had, volunteer experience (including helping an older family member clean their house or mow their lawn, or babysitting your siblings or neighbors), and 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.

Want more assistance preparing for your job search? You can get free help by contacting staff at a CareerForce location near you.

Make sure you know if an employer will not hire teens under a certain age. Getting this clarified up front will save you lots of time in completing applications for jobs you won’t be hired for until you are older. Many employers are not allowed to hire young people under 16, depending upon the job.

Create a list of one to three references that you can give potential employers. If possible, the list should include someone for whom you’ve worked or volunteered. Teachers and sports coaches also make great references. Your reference list should have names and emails and/or phone numbers. Make sure you have your reference people’s permission before your share their information with employers!

Do your research on the business to which you are applying 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 for the interview to show that you will fit in.

Lots of teen jobs are located away from public transportation lines 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 that are on public transportation lines. What businesses, entertainment sites and shopping districts can you get to via bus or light rail? You might need to cover the bus/light rail fare until you get your first paycheck so make sure you have some money saved to get to and from work during this time period.

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 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.

What if you get multiple job offers? If you get multiple job offers here are a couple of things to think about before making your selection: Does each of the places that made a job offer seem like a good place to work? Will you learn anything new at any of them? 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 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 in which you see yourself working in the future could provide a path to financial independence after high school.

If you fall into this second 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.

  • 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.
  • Check out a current listing of in-demand jobs that don’t require a college degree at
  • DEED's 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 for youth. Go to
  • GetMyFuture website at is a great place for you to learn about finding a career, getting job experience, and getting a job.

1The BLS inflation calculator CPI Inflation Calculator ( was used to adjust for inflation.

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