June 7, 2021

Teen employment could hit record highs in 2021

[Business Insider, Getty Images]

US business owners flock to hire young workers in a tight labor market

  • 2021 could be a record year for teen employment in the US.
  • Small business owners say they are leaning on younger workers as the labor shortage intensifies.
  • As a result, teen employment rates are soaring. 

Teen employment rates in the US are soaring. 

According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, US business owners are flocking to hire young workers as the labor market becomes more challenging. As a result, teen unemployment rates in the US are at their lowest level since 1953 and the number of teens in work has reached the highest rate since 2008, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released Friday and cited by The Journal.

“We’ve seen a pent-up demand for tourism and recreation jobs where teens are most likely to be employed,” Luke Pardue, an economist at Gusto, told The Journal. “Hesitancy among older workers, a higher demand for these types of jobs, could combine to make 2021 a record year for teen employment,” he said.

Businesses across the US are grappling with a national labor shortage and are trying to attract workers that have been put off by demanding customers, low pay, and pandemic health concerns among other reasons. 

Earlier this month, the president of the US Chamber of Commerce described the worker shortage as “a national economic emergency” that posed a threat to America’s economic recovery, Insider’s Grace Dean reported.

For teens, this means more opportunities to cherry-pick the best-paying jobs. 

“It’s a perfect storm for them,” Ric Serrano, CEO of Serrano’s Mexican Restaurants, which has five locations around Phoenix, told The Journal. 

“We’re nowhere near as rigid,” he said. “When people show up for an interview on time, you’re thrilled. That’s where we’re at.”

Another restaurant owner, Ben Eli – who owns Doris Metropolitan steakhouses in Houston and New Orleans – told The Journal that he had to delay the opening of his new bakery in Houston because he couldn’t find workers. Eli said that out of 45 interviews arranged for jobs at his new bakery, only two candidates had turned up. 

Since then he’s only been able to hire teen workers. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” he told The Journal. “They are 100% of my staffing right now.”

One young worker told The Journal that after being furloughed from her $11-an-hour job at Ulta Beauty in 2020, she is being asked to come back and work there for $15-an-hour. 

“They are trying to get people in there fast,” she said. “If you just show a sign that you are interested, they are going to talk to you further.”

By Mary Hanbury 

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