Less Young People Had Summer Jobs Than Ever Before And I Think They Missed Out

Ah, summertime. When I was a teenager, it was filled with hours by the pool, plenty of sleepovers and more cash than I would make all year long. At the tender age of 14, I began nannying for a single working mom during my summers. Every weekday for four summers, I woke up and went to work from 7am to 5pm. I didn’t consider it to be a waste of my summer or time. I enjoyed the opportunity to earn spending money for the school year and I enjoyed the work. I had always babysat, so taking care of two little kids all day long was pretty much second-nature. During my teen years, holding down a job taught me responsibility and work ethic. Even if my friends were taking a trip to the mall, I couldn’t just ditch out on the family that needed my help. I used those first paychecks to learn about saving and managing money. All in all, I’m very thankful that I had the opportunity to work through my summers.

Apparently, less and less people are going to be able to say that. Only 48.8% of young people (ages 16 – 24) were employed in July 2011. Its the lowest recorded summer employment level for young adults since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started measuring in 1948. Yes, a lot of these people are in school and don’t have to work in the summer. But I always felt that having a job, even an informal one like nannying, taught me lessons that school never could. As I started to move into actual companies, like restaurants and retail, I got an early understanding of how businesses work and what’s expected of employees.

Obviously education is important, there’s absolutely no questioning that. But as degrees become more and more common, I think early work experience becomes more of an asset as well. Companies like to see employees that take initiative, and there’s something rather ambitious about a boy who takes on a newspaper route or a girl who works at Zesto’s every summer. I’m sad to see that so many young people won’t have the opportunity to prove their burgeoning work ethic.

In this economic crisis, young people were definitely hit hardest. The unemployment rate for young adults is still at 18.1%, but that doesn’t include students who simply decided not to try for summer jobs because opportunities were so scarce. This is only young people actively searching for a job. The overall picture shows that less than half of our country’s young adults are employed right now. That’s a large number of people who will never get the chance to ease into the workforce and learn the basic employment lessons that first jobs normally give.

Looking at these statistics, I’m so much more thankful for summer job. I wouldn’t change it for any number of hours spent laying around my house or shopping with my friends.

Graph courtesy of NYT Economix Blog via Bureau of Labor Statistics

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