Jun 11, 2021 - Economy

Teens juice the summer recovery

Illustration of a young worker sweeping up COVID-19.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Teenagers are stepping up to staff an economic comeback that's expected to kick into overdrive this summer.

Why it matters: A working teen renaissance is underway in America as businesses scramble to find employees.

  • Summer is always the most popular time for teens to get paying gigs, but the pace this year is eye-popping.
  • Roughly one-third of 16- to 19-year-olds were employed last month, according to the latest jobs report — the highest share since 2008.

Flashback: The adolescent labor market last peaked in the summer of 1978 when half of the teenage population was working.

  • It's fallen ever since. Typical summer gigs for at least some teenagers were increasingly replaced with volunteer work, school or unpaid internships.

What they're saying: A senior White House official said vaccinated younger workers could help fill the avalanche of job openings — once they "feel more comfortable about returning to public-facing jobs," like hotels or bars, Politico reported today.

There are already signs teens are helping release the pressure valve for leisure and hospitality — a sector with a record number of job openings.

  • The intrigue: Adults may have taken the place of teens during the last recession, but now those opportunities are going back to teen workers, staffing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said in a report this week.

One upshot: Teens are reaping the benefits of businesses desperate for workers — perks and higher pay, which might be necessary after an economically devastating year.

  • Small businesses have been hiking pay for teens in service sector jobs, payroll platform Gusto told the New York Times last month.
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