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Summer Jobs

Only one in four teenagers is expected to be employed this summer. That’s a sharp decline from a teen employment rate that hung around 50 percent from the end of World War II through the 1990s. Why are teen employment rates hitting record lows?

If you guessed that it’s strongly related to the recession, you’d be right. Teen employment always declines during a recession, but usually those jobs are added back when the economy rebounds. But according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, when the rest of the workforce was seeing their employment numbers improve in the mid 2000s, teen employment was still declining.

Some argue that teen employment is taking a hit because of increases in the minimum wage. Others say that teens are not idle over the summer, and even though fewer are working, they’re still volunteering, interning, and studying. So, are a lack of jobs pushing kids into other opportunities? Or are kids choosing to do other things instead of getting jobs?

While there’s a lot of debate about why fewer teens are working, and still more debate about what they’re doing instead, there’s little question that the way teens spend their summers has a large impact on their futures.

If you are a teenager who decided to work — or to skip working — this summer, tell us your story. As a parent, what do you expect from your teen? What effect have your summer jobs had on you?

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OPB | July 13, 2011