The job market is starting to improve around the country, albeit faster in some areas than others. The accelerating recovery should prove beneficial to teenagers seeking employment this summer, as they are likely to face less competition from older, more experienced job hunters.  

However, a new outlook on the summer job prospects for teenagers reveals that fewer are actually seeking these seasonal positions.

Summer employment among teenagers is projected to increase over last year’s better-than-expected gains, according to the annual teen summer employment outlook released Tuesday by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

Last year, teen employment gains during the summer months improved significantly after falling to record lows in 2010.  Non-seasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show employment among 16- to 19-year-olds grew by 1,087,000 jobs from May through June last year.  That was up 13.2 percent from the same period a year earlier, when the teen employment ranks grew by just 960,000.

The 960,000 teenagers added to payrolls in the summer of 2010 was the lowest level of seasonal hiring since 1949, when teen employment increased by only 932,000 from May through July.

“The teen job market definitely rebounded in 2011, with more than 1,000,000 teens finding new jobs,” said John A. Challenger, CEO of CG&C. “However, job gains among teens were still well below the levels achieved prior to the recession.  While teen employment is likely to see further improvement this summer, job gains will probably once again fall short of pre-recession figures.”

Teens were in high demand before the 2008 recession.  From 2005 through 2007, employment among 16- to 19-year-olds grew by an average of 1.7 million during the summer months of May, June and July.

Interestingly, whether it is the frustration of finding employment or an increased desire to focus on academics, volunteering, sports, or other activities, but an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data reveals that more and more teenagers are opting out of the labor force entirely and have no desire to seek employment.

In 2011, the number of 16- to 19-year-olds not participating in the labor force, meaning they were neither employed nor actively seeking employment, averaged 11,048,000.  Of that total, only 1,102,000 said they wanted a job.  About 90 percent (9,946,000) of the teens not in the labor force indicated that they did not want a job.

The number of 16- to 19-year-olds not wanting a job has increased steadily since 1994, in lockstep with the number of people in that age group who are opting out of the labor force. Meanwhile, the number of teens not in the labor force but who want jobs has remained relatively flat over the same time period.