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Still looking for a summer job? This is the largest employer of teens
Mason Sine teaches Cadel Laborda how to swim at Fairmont Aquatic Center in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. - photo by Jennifer Graham
If your teens are still looking for a summer job, suggest they apply at a restaurant or hotel.

Those are the businesses that employ the most teens, according to a new report from Pew Research Center.

Officially called "accommodations and food services" by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this category of business employed about one-third of the estimated 6.2 teens who were working in July 2017, according to Pew's analysis, which was published July 2.

That makes the industry the largest employer of 16- to 19-year-olds, and the only industry that employed more teens in 2017 than in the year 2000, wrote Drew DeSilver, a senior writer for Pew and author of the report.

Between 2000 and 2017, the total number of working teens fell by 2.3 million, or 27.4 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But during that same period, accommodation and food services added more than 2.3 million workers, a growth rate of 19.6 percent, DeSilver noted.

Another traditional employer of teens, retail stores, were handing out fewer paychecks to high-school students.

Last July, just over 1.3 million teens worked in the retail sector, compared with more than 2 million in July 2000 a 35.3 percent drop, DeSilver wrote.

Put another way, just a little over 1 in 5 summer jobs for teens were in retail stores last year, compared to about 1 in 4 some 17 years ago.

Why fewer work

The decline in teens working in retail might be related to the ongoing shakeup of the industry caused by the explosive growth in online shopping. The year 2017 set a record for the number of store closings, with retailers announcing more than 7,000 closings, including hundreds of stores owned by well-known retailers such as Radio Shack, JC Penney and Macys.

But despite the closings, DeSilver noted that when workers of all ages were considered, retail employment was about 4 percent higher in the summer of 2017 than in 2000, so the decline hasnt affected adult workers like it has teens.

Its possible that other factors are affecting teen employment in retail, such as the hours not being compatible with teens still in school, or with teens attending school for more months of the year, DeSilver said in an interview.

The uptick in teen employment at restaurants and hotels stands in contrast to a steady decline in the number of teens employed overall. As Pew reported, more than half of teens held a summer job at the turn of the 21st century, compared to about one-third today.

Analysts blame some of the decline on the Great Recession, which the Federal Reserve says officially lasted from 2007 to 2009. The summer job rate among teens dipped to 30 percent in 2010 and 2011, but remains lower than before the recession. (There is one notable exception: Utah, where the teen employment rate is about 50 percent.)

Labor analysts like Paul Harrington at the Center for Labor Markets and Policy at Drexel University in Philadelphia say pressure to get into elite colleges steers many would-be teen workers into unpaid internships, summer classes or research positions during their school vacations. They also point to an increasing number of schools that operate year-round, and more older people holding jobs that used to be the purview of teens.

Regardless of the reason, Drexels 2018 report on the summer job outlook notes that the decline began with the birth of the children who graduated from high school this year.

No group of workers has experienced such a sharp decline in their employment rate since 2000, the Drexel report said.

That unemployment may come at a cost. Teens who hold summer jobs gain work and social skills that help them with future employment, and some research has shown they perform better in school. Moreover, Evidence shows that urban youth who did not work during the summer were more likely than their employed peers to commit violent crimes, to be at risk of social isolation, and engage in risky, deviant, delinquent and violent behaviors, the Drexel report says.

Where the jobs are

With overall unemployment in the United States hovering at about 4 percent, the jobless rate for teenagers who are looking for work was 12.6 percent as of July 6, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Thats also roughly the rate it was in 2000, according to Pew's DeSilver.

If you have a teenager looking for work, the data suggest that any business that restaurants and hotels are the best place to look, he said. Another sector that is hiring more teens is arts, entertainment and recreation, which would include sports and music venues, country fairs, museums and other businesses catering to tourists, the Pew report said.

Anecdotally, one of the jobs that needs filling across the country this year is that of lifeguard. Wisconsin recently lowered its age for lifeguards to 15 because businesses with pools couldn't find enough, and DeSilver said that some resorts and country clubs are hiring senior citizens to guard swimmers this year.

Less promising for teens is finding a job in construction or manufacturing. Since 2000, the percentage of teens working in those fields has dropped to 4.3 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively. Fewer than 500,000 teens worked in construction or manufacturing last summer, down from 1.7 million in 2000, DeSilver reported.