A Dismal Summer Employment Market Predicted For Teenagers

By: Michelle Singletary
Washington Post

June 8, 2008

If your teenager hasn't already secured a summer job, he or she may find the employment possibilities limited this season.

The market for summer jobs nationwide is going to be dismal, according to a study released by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. Deterioration of national labor market conditions has accelerated collapse of the teen job market across the country, the center reported in April.

Teen employment rates have declined sharply since the fall of 2006. The summer 2007 job market for teens was the worst on record in the post-World War II period as the seasonally adjusted employment rate for teens plummeted to 34.5 percent.

The 2008 summer outlook will be even worse, given the three consecutive monthly losses in employment at the national level January through March and the continued decline in the teen labor market, the Center for Labor Market Studies reported.

Job losses for teens over the past eight years have been severe for nearly all major demographic, socioeconomic and geographic subgroups. Younger teens, males, blacks and Hispanics, and those in low-income households are most at-risk of joblessness.

Teens will find it harder to find work because of a number of factors.

Nearly half (49 percent) of hiring managers at companies providing traditional hourly employment (retailers and restaurants) said they weren't planning on adding seasonal workers, a consequence of the uncertain economy, according to a survey of more than 1,000 summer employers by SnagAJob.com, an online source of hourly jobs.

SnagAJob also found that managers who do plan on hiring are less than impressed with the work ethic that teens bring. More than half (56 percent) agreed with the statement that "today's youth do not have the same work ethic as previous generations."

Teens looking for work also will find a lot of competition, especially from recently displaced workers.

Joblessness among teens could have one bright side: Although they may learn some valuable workplace skills on the job, they also often pick up some bad money habits.

If teens do find a job, parents need to use this experience to teach them about money management or the extra cash might be spent recklessly.

For many, summer work is key in paving the way for better employment in the future. "Disadvantaged teens who work in high school are more likely to remain in high school than their peers who do not work," the authors of the Northeastern report wrote. "Teens who work more in high school have an easier transition into the labor market after graduation."

Whether you find your teen is ready to work or is able to get a summer job, follow these tips to help him or her better manage the income:

n Consider setting up a joint bank account, or at least be sure that you get a duplicate copy of your teen's bank statements. Review spending habits with your child when the statements arrive.

n Make the teen do a budget and review it.

n Establish ground rules for how earnings will be used. For example, if your child is planning to attend college, make sure that he or she is saving a significant percentage of their pay toward education expenses.

n Talk to your child about how he or she is spending money not earmarked for savings. Here is where you can allow freedom to spend, but just discuss how to make smart shopping choices.

n Don't allow your employed teen to get a credit card (or use yours). There's plenty of time for a young person to learn to use credit. Instead, let them figure out how to get what they want using cash.

You may get some pushback from some of these rules, but you're the parent. Don't miss an opportunity to show your teen the right way to manage money from summer earnings.