Teenagers are in High Demand throughout the Summer, and their Wages Reflect It
Teens have always been needed to work at restaurants, ice cream stands, entertainment parks, and camps during the summer.
Now, when the job market is one of the tightest it has been in decades, they have even more power because they can choose from a wide range of jobs that pay more and more.
Some states are trying to get rid of limits so that teens can work more hours and, in some cases, more dangerous jobs. This makes labor rights groups unhappy because it is a worrying trend.
According to economists, there are alternative ways to increase the workforce that don’t involve burdening children any more, such as by allowing more legal immigration.
Seeking Teen Workers
In order to keep the attractions operating at Funtown Splashtown USA, an amusement park in southern Maine, which isn’t as simple as it used to be, youths play a crucial role.
In contrast to previous summers when more than 500 employees were hired, general manager Cory Hutchinson expects hiring roughly 350 people this summer, many of whom will be local high school students.
In order to staff the facility seven days a week and into the evenings, he claimed, “We literally do not have enough people.” This summer, Funtown Splashtown will close at 6 p.m. instead of 9 p.m., and it will only be open six days a week.
According to government statistics, 34% of Americans between the ages of 16 and 19 were employed in April. In the final summer before the epidemic, four years ago, that figure was 30%.
For those who want them, there are more employment available: The Labor Department estimates that there are 1.6 available jobs for every unemployed worker. That ratio often hovers around 1:1.
Finding enough young employees hasn’t been a problem at RideAway Adventures on Cape Cod, which provides kayak, bike, and paddleboard rentals as well as tours. Owner Mike Morrison explains it by saying that compared to other possibilities, RideAway is a desirable place to work.
They get to be outside and active instead of washing dishes, according to Morrison.
Additionally, he will increase the salary of dependable workers by as much as 50 cents per hour around the end of July to help keep them through the end of the summer, even though he generally starts off new adolescent hires at $15 per hour, the state’s minimum wage.
Maxen Lucas, a senior at Lincoln Academy in Maine who will graduate this year, started working when he was 15 as a dishwasher at a summer camp. He then worked as a grocery bagger for a while before starting a landscaping business. Young employees, he claimed, now had more options.
The Nobleboro, North Carolina, resident who will attend Maine Maritime Academy this autumn, who is 18 years old, claimed that “after COVID settled down, everyone was being paid more.”
Indeed, in April, hourly wages at restaurants, shops, and amusement parks—the sectors most likely to employ teenagers—rose by approximately 5% from a year earlier. Prior to the epidemic, these industries’ salary increases were usually limited to 3% per year.
The Virginia G. Piper Boys & Girls Club in Scottsdale, Arizona is where Addison Beer, 17, will work this summer. There, she feels a close connection to her coworkers and the children she works with.
She temporarily accepted a job at Zinburger, a restaurant that was in need of staff, due to a scheduling difficulty. She remarked, “They just asked me a few questions and were like, ‘Oh, you’re hired!'”
Finding the greatest paying position isn’t always the goal of a summer employment for many teenagers.
Christopher Au, 19, has been serving ice cream at a J.P. Licks in Boston for the past few months. “Having a job is just so I can sustain myself, be more independent, and not rely on my parents too much,” he said.
Jack Gervais, 18, of Cumberland, Maine, has secured a photography internship at a cultural institution where he will make nearly the minimum wage of $13.80 per hour while receiving experience relevant to his future professional objectives. However, he claimed that many of the children he knows are looking for higher paid jobs and getting them.
“Unless there were significant tips involved, nobody I know would work for minimum wage,” he remarked.
Expanding Teen Hours
A rule enabling 16 and 17-year-olds to work up to 50 hours per week during the summer, when the state’s coastal economy booms with vacationers, was passed in New Jersey in 2022. Previously, the weekly cap was 40 hours.
Parents have applauded the measure.
Billy, Sally Rutherford’s 17-year-old son, was looking forward to the change, the 56-year-old mother from North Wildwood, New Jersey, said. He’ll be able to help pay for a car with the money he makes working as a game operator at an amusement park on the Jersey Shore.
He becomes lot more independent and responsible as a result, she claimed.
Different ideas to increase the employment of teenagers are being considered by other governments.
Legislators in Wisconsin are in favor of letting 14-year-olds sell alcohol in pubs and restaurants. A bill extending the number of hours that adolescents can work and allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to serve alcohol in restaurants was signed into law in Iowa by the governor on Friday.
Child welfare activists are concerned that the changes are part of a coordinated effort to weaken the hard-won safeguards for children.
Immigration is a Factor
The country’s ability to develop for years in the face of an aging population has been largely attributed to legal immigration, according to economists, who believe that it is a vital answer to the manpower shortfall.
In order to staff establishments like restaurants, hotels, and tourist attractions, many resort towns rely on immigrants with summer visas. However, as the federal government tightened restrictions during the COVID outbreak, immigration dropped significantly. Nearly 285,000 summer visas were granted in 2022, a decrease from the almost 350,000 granted prior to the pandemic.
In comparison to pre-pandemic rates, the Federal Reserve projected in March that the overall decline in immigration has lost the United States close to one million workers. Despite returning to pre-COVID levels, the consequences are still being felt in the immigration sector.
Labor Crunch Beginning to Ease
Baby Boomers reaching retirement age is another element putting pressure on the job market. According to estimates from the Federal Reserve, an increase in retirements has resulted in a loss of 2 million jobs in the economy.
Nevertheless, despite the considerable difficulties employers must overcome this summer, labor shortages are far less of a concern than they were in 2021, when the epidemic made many individuals unwilling to return to customer-facing occupations. Inflation has increased, which has encouraged many people to look for job to support their families by paying the rent and for food.
2 million Americans who had been out of the labor for the previous six months have now started working or looking for work. The proportion of Americans aged 25 to 54 who are employed or looking for a job has risen above pre-pandemic levels.