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Youth Summer Employment during the Pandemic Recession

By Oriane Casale
May 2023

Teen employment levels have increased, unemployment rates are at records lows, wages and hours worked are at record highs, and teens 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 in Minnesota on a 12-month moving average basis. However, 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, tied with a few months in 2018.

The number of teens in the labor force has grown by 28,700 since 2021 (2021 average to April 2023), while the number employed has grown by 24,600. These are impressive increases that have resulted in higher labor force participation rates and employment-to-population ratios. The teen labor force participation rate increased from 53.5% to 54.9% over the period, while teen employment-to-population ratio increased from 50.6% to 51.1%.

Teen unemployment rates have bounced around a bit over the period although the recent trajectory has been downward, with the April 2023 rate at 6.9%. The low rate in 2021, however, and the labor force growth means that 4,200 more teens were unemployed in April 2023 than were in 2021 on average.

Overall these statistics indicate that teens are strongly engaged in the labor force. This is good news for employers who are struggling to fill job vacancies, and especially those who are looking to fill summer positions in 2023. 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 Minnesota

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 represent the midpoint of each year and are what is displayed in the graph.

During the third quarter of 2022 teens held 7.3% of jobs in Minnesota. This is up from 7.2% in third quarter of 2021, 6.4% in 2020 and 6.8% in 2019. Teens held a higher share of total jobs in the 2000s, ranging from 9.0% in 2001 to 8.5% in 2007, but saw a drop off after the Great Recession. Teen employment is seasonal and third quarter is the quarter that teens are most likely to work, while they are least likely to be employed during the first quarter of the 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, approximately 11 hours per week, in Minnesota. This puts hourly wages at record highs (series 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.

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 highest ratio in 2021 at 58.3%. Before 2021 teen median hourly wages ranged from 48% to 57% 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 and Food Services, Art, Entertainment, and 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, are displayed in Table 1.

Table 1: Teen Share of Industry Employment, Hourly Earnings, and Hours Worked, Minnesota, Third Quarter 2022
Industry Share of Industry Employment (%) Median Hourly Wage Number of Hours Worked
Total, all industries 7.3 $15.02 145
Accommodation and Food Services 26.8 $14.76 119
Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation 19.6 $13.91 119
Retail Trade 18.4 $14.96 159
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting 10.7 $14.95 121
Other Services 8.0 $14.71 134
Source: Quarterly Employment Demographics, DEED (

Teens comprised 27% of the Accommodation and Food Services industry, 20% of Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation, and 18% of Retail Trade during third quarter 2022. Without teens these industries would struggle to keep their doors open. Hours worked during the quarter were greatest in Retail Trade at 159 or around 12 hours per week. Teens worked the fewest hours in Accommodations and Food Services and Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation, which tend to offer more part time hours overall.

The industries that teens are most likely to work in pay median hourly wages between $13.91 and $14.96 per hour, but some other industries with lower shares of teens workers, paid even higher median wages with Construction at $18.98, Transportation and Warehousing at $18.46, and Manufacturing at $17.81 per hour. Overall, this picture presents a labor market that is very favorable for teens who want to work.

2023 Outlook

Most industries have replaced all the workers they lost during the Pandemic Recession. Accommodation and Food Services is still down by 9,000 workers, Retail Trade by 5,600 workers, and Other Services by 8,600 workers. This indicates that employers are still in hiring mode with plenty of opportunities for teen workers this summer. Based on the best available data, DEED forecasts that employment in Minnesota will grow by 28,600 in 2023, with 22% 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.

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 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, such as helping a family member or friend or 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 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 you 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 from 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.

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: 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 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 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 at 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 at
  • 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 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
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