Landing a Summer Job Is Getting a Little Easier -- For Some

While slightly more young Americans got jobs this summer, they're not working nearly as often as they used to.
by | August 18, 2016
The construction industry had more young workers this year than last. (FlickrCC/Forest Service Northern Region Follow)

When school lets out each summer, millions of students go in search of a job. New Labor Department data published Wednesday suggests some are having slightly better luck at landing them, while others continue to struggle.

The latest federal jobs report provides a snapshot of summer employment for those between the ages of 16 and 24 for July, the month where youth employment reaches its peak. Total employment for these younger workers jumped by nearly 2 million between April and July. Compared to last year, younger workers fared marginally better in job searches. Their July unemployment rate was 11.5 percent, down from 12.2 percent, while the share participating in the labor market remained unchanged.

That said, younger Americans aren’t working summer jobs quite as often as they used to.

An estimated 64.8 percent held summer employment in 2000, compared to 53.2 percent last month. Employment declined across the board during the recession, but younger workers haven’t recovered as well as others, particularly older adults working later into their careers.

Age 16-24 vs Age 25+

The summer employment data also depicts stark racial disparities.

Unemployment rates for younger whites and Asians last month stood at about 10 percent, which is half the jobless rate for black youth, at 20.6 percent. It’s also worth noting that while summer unemployment for white, Hispanic and Asian youth all dipped slightly last year, the rate for blacks showed essentially no improvement.

White, Black, Asian, Hispanic

Summer youth unemployment for both men and women declined at similar rates in recent years, however, younger men are slightly more likely to participate in the labor market.

An estimated 5.2 million young adults worked in the leisure and hospitality sector this summer -- in restaurants and amusement parks, for example. While these typically low-wage jobs account for the single largest employment sector, three-quarters of all younger Americans worked in other areas of the economy, such as education and health services (2.6 million). Local governments employed an estimated 728,000 workers under age 25 in July, while another 510,000 were on state government payrolls.

Compared to last July, the industries that saw the largest increase of young employees were construction (+12 percent), education and health services (+17 percent) and professional/business services (+9 percent).

By contrast, state and local governments reported a respective 6 percent and 3 percent decline in younger workers.