The overall employment situation continues to improve for many Americans. Recent federal data shows a gain of 428,000 jobs in April, as well as a 5.5% average hourly wage increase over the last 12 months. Some of the industries showing job growth include: leisure and hospitality, manufacturing, transportation and warehousing, professional and business services, financial activities, health care, retail, and food service, among others. For many of those looking for work, the job outlook remains promising.
Teenage workers are one demographic that is benefiting from rising wages and the overabundance of job openings. Rising wages have been effective in compelling more teens into the workforce since many jobs pay on an hourly basis. At the same time, a tight labor market is compelling more business owners to consider hiring teens for vacant positions that are either difficult to fill or have been abandoned by older workers also seeking higher wages.
As summer approaches, businesses that see a seasonal surge will likely take on teen employees. Hiring teens has its challenges, though, and the benefits and drawbacks of a teen-heavy staff have to be considered.
There are a lot of positives to hiring teens. Since they work hourly, and possibly only for the summer months, no medical, dental or retirement benefits are expected. Depending on location, some employers may qualify for an additional tax credit by hiring workers under 18. Teens tend to have the most flexible schedules, allowing employers more leeway to staff their businesses during evenings and weekends. Most importantly, teens are the demographic most comfortable and adept with technology. While older, more experienced workers are sometimes reluctant to learn and adopt new tech systems, teens learn technology quickly and integrate it in most aspects of their lives already.
Hiring teenagers can save a business a lot in payroll, but there are challenges, as well. State and federal regulations surrounding underage employment may limit the hours each day or week a teen worker can be scheduled. Teens also don’t always have their own transportation, so making sure your new employees can show up reliably will be an important determination.
The biggest drawback to hiring teens is their lack of experience. Many are still developing their communication and interpersonal skills and they will lack the workplace maturity that older workers exhibit. Since teenage workers have less experience, more resources are need for training and supervision.
Teens tend to be good fits for summer seasonal business because their schedules accommodate summer employment, making summer work a low-obligation commitment for both the employer and the teen worker. Industries that are best suited to summer teen employment include:
Food service: fast food workers, concessions attendants, restaurant servers and hosts
Childcare: babysitters, daycare center assistants, camp counselors
Pool and recreational facilities: lifeguards, swim coaches, desk attendants
Grocery store: cashiers, stockers, cleaners, parking lot attendants
In spite of the widespread stereotype that teens don’t like to work, this spring and summer are forecasting a high participation among teens in the workforce. The current teenage unemployment rate—just over 10%—is at one of its lowest points in years. Businesses considering supplementing their staff with teen workers must weigh the benefits and drawbacks of hiring teens for specific positions, as they are generally most helpful in hourly, seasonal roles. Teens can be beneficial for filling temporary positions or bridging schedule gaps among employees during peak times, but good training early on and a comfortable work environment will also be necessary to keep turnover among teen workers as low as possible.