Don’t expect to see as many teens at the lifeguard stand or scooping ice cream this summer.
That’s because the number of jobs secured by people between ages 16 to 19 in May, when summer hiring ramps up, was only 156,000, a 14% decrease from last year, Marketwatch reported. Similarly, last year, the number of teens who had a summer job was about 11% lower than the year before.
Teen unemployment during the summer has been a trend for several decades. While more than half of teens had summer jobs in the 1970s and 1980s, now less than one-third do, according to a 2015 survey from Pew Research Center.
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The primary reason for the decline is, simply, teens are choosing not to work. Instead, they’re trying to pad their resumes for their college applications by volunteering or enrolling in educational programs. They’re also faced with fewer opportunities: Restaurants and retail stores are not hiring as many teens because they don’t need as many workers to meet seasonal demand. And many traditional summer employers, like summer camps and amusement parks, don’t add new jobs each year.
Still, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that teens are eschewing summer employment. A summer spent volunteering could be more enriching than slaving away at a thankless minimum-wage job. Taking on less responsibility could also give teens more time to devote to college planning. And of course, some admissions officers may look more favorably on a student who took summer classes rather than one who spent July and August flipping burgers.
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Other experts, however, contend that teens are missing out by not having a summer job because they’re not learning character traits like grit and accountability—skills also valued by future employers. Perhaps most significantly, summer jobs teach teens the value of money. “It’s easy to slide when there is no money involved,” New York-based career coach Roy Cohen told Marketwatch.