Summer 2016 was a lucrative one for teenage wage earners. With strong hiring in June and July, the number of teenagers finding summer employment in 2016 increased by more than 15 percent to its highest level since 2013, according to an analysis of government data by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. Employment among teens increased by 1.3 million between May and July, 15.4 percent more than a year ago, when 1.2 million 16 to 19-year-olds were added to the employment rolls. The summer total was helped by heavier-than-usual teen employment gains in July. A total of 492,000 teenagers found jobs in July, according to non-seasonally adjusted data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The July teen job gains were 33 percent higher than last year’s 369,000, and August’s gains were 25 percent higher than the 392,900 July job gains averaged over the previous 10 years. The strong summer hiring brought total employment among 16 to 19-year-olds to 6 million, which is the highest number of employed teens since August 2008, when 6.1 million teenagers were working.
Teen employment has been declining since the 1970s when, at its peak in July 1978, more than 10 million teenagers were employed. Much of the decline appears to be by choice, as a growing number of teenagers participate in summer sports and education programs, volunteer, travel or work in jobs that fall below the standard employment measures. However, even with the promise of tuition assistance, it may be an uphill battle when it comes to bringing teens back into the fold. According to unpublished, non-seasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the 9.5 million 16 to 19-year-olds not in the labor force last month, more than 8.5 million, or roughly 90 percent, indicated that they do not want a job.