Teenagers used to work summer jobs with some regularity. In 1978, 60% of American teenagers had a summer job of some sort or another, but by 2014, that number had dropped to 33%. There are a number of reasons for this change. Some students might be skipping on work in order to enjoy their summers, or to attend classes and tutoring in order to prepare for increasingly competitive college scholarships. The recent recession likely hasn’t helped matters either, especially since employers only added 126,000 jobs in March of 2015, which is about half of what was expected. As a result, the national unemployment stayed right around 5.5%.
Bill Chong, who runs New York City’s Department of Youth and Community Development, thinks the economy has something to do with it. Last year, the city’s summer job program had about 133,000 applicants, but only had 47,000 jobs. He notes that many of the jobs that teenagers used to work as entry level positions, things like fast-food service and retail jobs, are being taken by older workers who hold onto those jobs when they can.
“Summer jobs” types of work are often high-turnover and are still seen by many as “teenager” jobs, which is why people will argue fiercely against paying fast-food workers $11 or $15 an hour. Those jobs aren’t going to teens anymore, but to adults, with bills to pay or families to support.
And that’s problematic, both because it means far too many people are trying to support themselves on low paying jobs, but it also reduces opportunities for teens. Studies have shown that teens will make more as adults for each year they work before entering the workforce proper, which is difficult to do when you can’t find a job.
With that in mind, teenaged programmer Adrian Gonzalez is working on an app to connect employers and teens looking for work. It’s still early in development, but, according to Gonzalez, it could be a multi-million dollar idea. So far, the app allows teens to search for jobs by wages or the type of work.