Teens Trends


Editor's note: text-only version of the graphic is below. 

 

In our nation’s changing economy, the pull of education is a key factor in how teens are fitting into the labor force. Back in 1979, about 58 percent of teens (16-19) were in the labor force, but by 2000, only 52 percent were.  By 2011, after the recession, about 34 percent of teens were in the labor force. What’s behind this change?  Most teens who do not participate in the labor force cite school as the reason. Consider these factors:

  • Higher attendance: In 2015, about 3 in 4 teens were enrolled in school. This proportion has trended up from about 60 percent in 1985, which is the first year data are available.
  • Time-consuming classes: After sleeping, school activities take up more time than anything else in a teenager’s week day. And high school coursework has become more strenuous. High schoolers today are taking tougher and more advanced courses, including those specifically designed for college preparation and credit. And most start college the fall after graduating from high school. In October 2015, about 70 percent of recent high school graduates were enrolled in college, compared with less than half of recent graduates in October 1959.
  • More summer students: Summer has always been the most common time for teens to work, but fewer teens are holding summer jobs: about 4 in 10 teens were in the labor force last July, compared with about 7 in 10 in July 1978. At the same time, school attendance in summer is on the rise. The proportion of teens enrolled in July 2016 (42 percent) was more than four times higher than in July 1985. 
  • Higher education costs: College tuition costs have risen dramatically in real (inflation-adjusted) terms, so a part-time job is generally not sufficient to cover costs.  Teens enrolled in college therefore are more likely to cover costs through loans and grants: 84 percent of full-time undergraduates received financial aid in 2011-12, compared with 58 percent in 1992-93.

 

Editor's note: text-only version of the graphic is below. 

Teens who want to work face competition, of course. Labor force participation for those ages 55 and older has been growing; their labor force participation rate surpassed the rate for teens in 2009.

What does the future hold? BLS projects that the teen labor participation rate could drop further in 2024, to 26.4 percent.

Learn more about trends in teen labor force participation.

 

Teri Morisi is a branch chief at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chart: Labor force participation rates for teens ages 16-19, 1979-2015 and projected 2024
Year Percent

 

 

1979

57.9

1980

56.7

1981

55.4

1982

54.1

1983

53.5

1984

53.9

1985

54.5

1986

54.7

1987

54.7

1988

55.3

1989

55.9

1990

53.7

1991

51.6

1992

51.3

1993

51.5

1994

52.7

1995

53.5

1996

52.3

1997

51.6

1998

52.8

1999

52.0

2000

52.0

2001

49.6

2002

47.4

2003

44.5

2004

43.9

2005

43.7

2006

43.7

2007

41.3

2008

40.2

2009

37.5

2010

34.9

2011

34.1

2012

34.3

2013

34.5

2014

34.0

2015

34.3

Projected 2024

24.6

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey and Employment Projections Program.

 

Chart: College enrollment rates for recent high school graduates, 1959-2015
Year Percent

1959

45.7

1960

45.1

1961

48.0

1962

49.0

1963

45.0

1964

48.3

1965

50.9

1966

50.1

1967

51.9

1968

55.4

1969

53.3

1970

51.8

1971

53.5

1972

49.2

1973

46.6

1974

47.6

1975

50.7

1976

48.8

1977

50.6

1978

50.1

1979

49.4

1980

49.4

1981

53.9

1982

50.6

1983

52.7

1984

55.2

1985

57.7

1986

53.7

1987

56.8

1988

58.9

1989

59.6

1990

59.9

1991

62.4

1992

61.7

1993

62.6

1994

61.9

1995

61.9

1996

65.0

1997

67.0

1998

65.6

1999

62.9

2000

63.3

2001

61.6

2002

65.2

2003

63.9

2004

66.7

2005

68.6

2006

66.0

2007

67.2

2008

68.6

2009

70.1

2010

68.1

2011

68.3

2012

66.2

2013

65.9

2014

68.4

2015

69.2

Note: Data beginning in 2006 are not strictly comparable to earlier years because of a change in supplement weights.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, October Supplement.

 


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Comments

High minimum wages are a factor as well.

I think the high cost of a college education is a critical point. In 1974, when I started college at a private institution, you could get a good summer job and pay for a substantial portion of tuition. I could contribute a $1,000 toward a $3,000 tuition/room and board bill. The summer jobs my children were not able to get didn't put a dent in a $20,000 tab.

The downside of this trend is, kids don't get resume building experience from summer or in school jobs.

Great bog Teri!

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