Industries that usually hire teen workers appear to be scaling back this year even though the economy continues to show signs of strength.
What that means for job-hunters, according to an outlook released Tuesday by outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, is that opportunities for teens might appear in unusual places or later in the summer when retailers have had a chance to better gauge consumer demand.
“Retail -- including long-standing clothing and accessories stores -- are pivoting to online sales and continue to cut in-store workers,” said Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John A. Challenger. “Teenagers will still have many opportunities, but they will not necessarily be in traditional retail stores.”
Rough going for retailers
Retailers have cut over 34,000 jobs in the first two months of the year, according to Challenger tracking. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), meanwhile, tracked 26,000 job losses in general merchandise stores; sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores; and electronics and appliance stores in February.
“If retailers do decide to beef up hiring, it will likely be later in the summer for back-to-school season leading up to the winter holiday shopping season,” Challenger noted. “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.”
A strong 2016
Last summer saw the strongest teen employment since 2013, when 1,335,000 teens found jobs. Employment among teens increased by 1,339,000 between May and July in 2016 -- 15.4% more than through the same period in 2015, when 1,160,000 16- to 19-year-olds were added to the employment rolls.
Last year’s total was helped by heavier-than-usual teen employment gains in July. A total of 492,000 would-be workers found jobs in July, according to non-seasonally adjusted data released by the BLS. The July teen job gains were 33% higher than the previous July’s 369,000, and up 25% from the 392,900 July job gains averaged over the previous 10 years.
The strong summer hiring brought last year’s total employment among 16- to 19-year-olds to 6,040,000 -- the highest number of employed teens since August 2008.
Currently, 4,657,000 16 to 19 year-olds are employed, an increase of 49,000 workers from the previous February. If last summer’s trend continues, that number could jump to over 6 million by August.
“Even with the recent gains, though, teen employment is a shadow of its former self,” Challenger pointed out. “The latest figures are well below the employment levels of the late 1990s and early 2000s, when it was common to see 7.0 million to 8.5 million teenagers employed at the peak of the summer job surge. In 1978, more than 10 million teenaged Baby Boomers were working in July.”
What to do
Challenger offered the following suggestions to make the job search more productive:
- Search where others are not. Outdoor jobs involving heavy labor or behind-the-scenes jobs are often not as sought-after by teen job seekers.
- Look for odd jobs at odd hours. Offer to work evening and night shifts and to fill in for vacationing employees. As a job-search strategy, conduct a search for these types of positions during the hours they operate.
- Become a door-to-door salesman when selling your skills. Do what good salesmen do -- start on one block and go from business to business, door to door. Don’t simply ask for an application. Take the time to introduce yourself and build some rapport with the hiring manager.
- Call friends and relatives. Parents and other relatives are often the best source for information on job leads. However, don’t forget to stay in touch with friends and other classmates, especially those who have been able to find jobs.
- Be a job-search ninja. Wait outside the store or offices of a prospective employer to attempt to intercept a hiring manager upon his or her arrival.
- Dress for the part. Even if you are applying to work on a road crew, show up to all interviews in nice clothes. You want the interviewer to focus on you and your skills, not on your ripped jeans and paint-splattered t-shirt.
- Don’t hesitate to revisit employers. The types of businesses seeking seasonal employees typically have higher-than-average turnover. An employer that did not hire you a couple of months ago might need more workers now.