Teen workers

In the 20th century, teenagers were an important component of the workforce. Between 1970-2000, most teens worked at least part-time. Of course, teens who are in school could not work full-time.


In 2000, the teen workforce participation rate began to decline precipitously. Anyone born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 23 to 38 in 2019) is considered a Millennial so the oldest Millennials would have been 19 years old in 2000.

This article analyzes the Macro trend of teenage workforce participation.

The conclusion is that the root cause stems from the employers, not from the willingness of Millennial teens to work (compared with Gen Z with a slightly rising participation rate).

Due to a relatively weak economy after the 2001 dot-com bust and especially the Great Recession after the 2008 financial crisis, many experienced adult workers lost their jobs and competed with teens for entry-level, minimum-wage jobs. Increased immigration added to the pool of low-wage workers.

The current worker shortage is giving teens more employment opportunities. The dearth is caused by retiring baby boomers, restricted immigration and Covid-related factors (including women unable to find child care and long Covid). Employers are willing to work around teenage schedules and even negotiate higher wages to get employees. Whether this will enable the same high rates of teen employment that the baby boomers enjoyed is yet to be seen.

Wendy (first full-time summer job at age 14)


At least around here one factor is that the local school district has really pushed to shorten the summer break and have several week long breaks during the school year instead. School is schedule to start on August 1st so the summer break will be barely 2 months long. With that short of a time period many employers do not hire high school students for traditional summer jobs.

The subdivision I am in has a pool and the pool company that we use has had a real hard time finding life guards so starting in August the pool will be open for limited hours during the weekdays when school is in session.

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During the post-2000 period, I took in a number of high school "interns’. At the beginning of the decade, they were good enough that some became permanent employees after they graduated. Towards the end of the decade, while sometimes (and sometimes not) neat and well groomed as well as being potentially intelligent, their lack of educational retention put them squarely in the ignoramus class - and since we didn’t have time to provide remedial education, they were relegated to being gofers (at best).


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IIRC in the late 80s to mid 90s, working teens became frowned on.

See also, this July 22, 2022 Reuters piece:

Exclusive: Hyundai subsidiary has used child labor at Alabama factory

Its not Hyundai’s fault;
Although staffing firms help fill industrial jobs nationwide, they have often been criticized by labor advocates because they enable large employers to outsource responsibility for checking the eligibility of employees to work.

The letter, written by SMART General Manager Gary Sport and reviewed by Reuters, said the plant was “severely lacking in labor” and that Hyundai “will not tolerate such shortcomings.”

Tzi, the father, also once worked at SMART and now does odd jobs in the construction and forestry industries. He told Reuters he regrets that his children had gone to work. The family needed any income it could get at the time, he added, but is now trying to move on.

Enterprise AL also has poutry processing plants, which relies on immigrant workers.

More at the Reuters link.
Be aware it has ESG over tones for those investing Hyundai stock.


…their lack of educational retention put them squarely in the ignoramus class

Piece on the news the other evening about the Army’s recruiting problems. Not only are only a third of potential recruits PQ, only about a third of them can read well enough, vs about two thirds, twenty years ago.

Some would blame the lack of effectiveness of education on “woke”. My aunt was a third grade teacher from the late 40s through the early 80s. She talked about how bad the parents were: didn’t support what she was trying to do, and demanding their spawn be passed, regardless of how little they learned. And the push now is to give parents more authority regarding what their spawn are supposed to learn, while the minimum standards of common core are demagogued as some sort of big gummit plot and some advocate the Federal Dept of Education be eliminated.

Low Literacy Levels Among U.S. Adults Could Be Costing The Economy $2.2 Trillion A Year

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 54% of U.S. adults 16-74 years old - about 130 million people - lack proficiency in literacy, reading below the equivalent of a sixth-grade level.


Several years ago, Toyota decided to build a new production plant in Canada, instead of the southern US, where they have other plants. One of the factors that weighed in the decision was how illiterate the southern US workforce was.



One of the factors that weighed in the decision was how illiterate the southern US workforce was.

FWIW, the state with the highest illiteracy rate is California.