Summer Job? Many Teens Are Saying No Thanks

Employers are looking to hire teenagers this summer, but teens are just not interested.


"The biggest problem in recent years has not been the shrinking number of summer jobs for teens, but the shrinking number of teens who want traditional jobs," said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an employment consulting, in a statement.

Despite an economic slowdown, American employers are expected to add between 1.5 million and 1.6 million 16-to-19-year olds to their payrolls according to a report by Challenger, just slightly lower than the 1.64 million jobs that were filled by teens during May, June and July last year.

Many of the jobs available might go unfilled.

“Flipping burgers, or folding shirts at a clothing store simply are not appealing to today’s technology addicted, career-oriented teen,” Challenger said.

Many teens are seeking jobs that will help them get into college, so they're skipping the traditional summer employment that doesn't add anything to a resume. Instead, they're taking summer courses (including college-prep classes), doing volunteer work or running their own businesses.

"Teenagers are increasingly participating in a wide range of activities that do not allow time for summer jobs," Challenger said.

Last summer, teenagers were so uninterested in summer work that just 50 percent of 16-to 19-year olds said they had a job or were looking for a job -- a record low, according to the report. The highest rate was in July 1978 when 72 percent of teenagers were working or looking for a summer job.

Number of Summer Jobs Gained by 16-to-19-Year-Olds

Summer Jobs Gained*
1998 2,003,000
1999 2,017,000
2000 1,509,000
2001 1,742,000
2002 1,656,000
2003 1,469,000
2004 1,592,000
2005 1,736,000
2006 1,734,000
2007 1,635,000
*Job gains from the months of May, June & July. Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas

The numbers are bad news to employers ranging from landscaping firms to restaurants to hotels who are looking to teenagers to fill positions that were once filled by immigrants. Because of a provision in immigration laws, it is estimated that 65,000 fewer foreign workers will be able to enter the United States this summer, leaving more labor intensive jobs unfilled.

Although these jobs are available, teenagers are skipping this type of work: "Many may pass the opportunity to work in labor intensive areas" that immigrants would have filled, said Challenger, because "many are seeking opportunities that will enhance their chances of getting into a good college and look good on a professional resume."