Despite retail job loss, teen employment making a comeback

The changing retail industry could make it tough for teen workers to find traditional job opportunities, but more teens are finding new ways to make money after a recent lull in youth employment.

The summer job — flipping hamburgers or working as the cashier at a local mall — is no longer a rite of passage for many teens. However, teen employment for the summer is improving lightly after a decrease in employment both locally and nationwide in recent years, a trend that started back in the 1990s.

Only about a third of teens are looking to work, according to U.S. Department of Labor data, but the summer season could help boost youth employment. As many as 6 million teens could work this summer, which is significantly less than the 10 million teens that were working back in 1978.

Employment will most likely look different for teens in coming years, shifting away from some of the traditional industries typically dominated by young workers.

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“Teenagers will still have many opportunities, but they will not necessarily be in traditional retail stores,” said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, which analyzes employment data.

A report from the Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that industries that traditionally cater to teen workers are scaling back, meaning teens might have to look in unusual places for employment. Retailers already cut more than 34,000 jobs in the first two months of the year.

“If retailers do decide to beef up hiring, it will likely be later in the summer for the back-to-school season leading up to the winter holiday season,” Challenger said. “In the meantime, teens who want summer employment should look in non-traditional areas and tap into older, employed contacts to seek out possible positions.”

Mark Anderson, workforce marketing coordinator for Montgomery County, said the retail cuts will “definitely affect younger workers.” He said the region has a serious workforce issue, and preparing teens for work in industries like manufacturing, healthcare and typical office jobs is one major way to fill the pipeline with skilled workers.

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“If I were a teen, grades are important,” he said. “But you also need to get out and work in an industry you’re interested in. Get some kind of a job, and be that employee that cares.”

In 2016, only a little over half of all teens were employed in July and unemployment among youth rose by 611,000 from April to July, compared to the increase of 654,000 for the same period in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The youth unemployment rate — 11.5 percent — and the number of unemployed youth — 2.6 million — in July 2016 did not change much from the previous year. Of the 2.6 million unemployed 16 to 24 years old, about 1.9 million were looking for work in July 2016.

Ben Young, co-owner of Young’s Jersey Dairy in Yellow Springs, said a majority of his employees for the summer are in high school and college, and they attract workers from Clark and Greene counties. Young said first jobs help teens grow and learn responsibility.

While many of those teen employees will work at Young’s Dairy throughout high school and college, they are working less. Young said teens are constantly running from work to sporting events, internships and community service.

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“We’re not seeing as many employees want to work as many hours,” he said. “They seem to be so busy, and work is not as much of a priority to them.”

Some employers also think competition is impacting the number of teens they’re able to hire during the summer months. On top of community service and internship opportunities, teens simply have more options employment options to choose from.

Kings Island Amusement & Water Park had approximately 4,200 jobs open for the 2017 season, and the park is still looking to hire in all areas of park operation. Approximately 65 percent of the park’s employees are teens, according to Don Helbig, spokesman for Kings Island.

“There are a lot more job opportunities available for teens within 30 miles of the park than there was five years ago, and that makes it more challenging every year,” he said.

Emily Dyer, 18, graduates from high school this year. For the past two years, she’s been working at Young’s Dairy and now helps train new workers who come on board. By working 40 hours a week during the summer and 25 hours during the school year, she’s been able to save money for college and buy her own car.

“I think there are some people who rely on their parents too much,” she said. “It’s prepared me for college. If I hadn’t gotten this job, I wouldn’t know how to do things like balance a checkbook and I have my own bank account. I think people get things handed to them if they don’t have a job or any responsibility.”

Dyer said she plans to continue working at the dairy throughout college, and she’s thrived working busy hours and meeting new friends on the job.

“This is my life,” she said.


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