These charts are head scratchers. I had a paper route when I was 12. I started a part-time job when I was 16 and have worked ever since. The number of teens working has been falling for the last 20 years.

The number of teens with summer jobs has fallen roughly 30 percentage points since the late ‘70s. In 1978, nearly three in four teenagers (71.8%) ages 16 to 19 held a summer job, but as of last year, only about four in 10 teens did, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the month of July analyzed by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas . It’s been a steady decline, seen even during good times: During the dot-com boom in the late 1990s, when national unemployment was only about 4%, roughly six in 10 teens held summer jobs. Even recently, with the economy recovering, fewer teens opted for jobs: Last year’s summer job gain was down 3% from the summer payrolls in 2012, the report revealed.

The first chart shows the dramatic plunge from 1995 onward. Have parents become too soft and are coddling their little babies? It certainly isn’t because people’s financial situation is better than it was in 1995. Real household income is lower than it was in 1998. College tuition has skyrocketed, so you would think teenagers would need to work in order to save for college and pay for their incidentals. Has the peddling of student loans by the government made teenagers think they got found money?

The chart below would indicate that teenagers are just lazy. They don’t want to work. They just want to play video games, text, facebook and twitter. Are they just the most spoiled, coddled generation ever? We know they all get trophies no matter where they finish.

Or does this chart tell the true story? Are baby boomers refusing to leave the workforce and clogging up the traditional entry level jobs for teenagers? If you go to fast food joints these days there sure are a lot more gray hairs behind the counter. Boomers lived for today and never saved for tomorrow, so now they are taking the jobs from millenials.

I think I know the answer I’ll get from the old fogeys on this site. My teenagers are working. Based on my observations, if a kid really wants to work, they can get a job.


  1. I agree. If they want a job they can find one. I have known a few including my own nephew who did not want jobs. In my nephews case he categorically stated that he should not have to get one and that my brother and his mother should “just support him”. It was a rather rude awakening when he found himself homeless but it still took months for him to get a job as he flopped from one friends couch to another. He finally ran out of friends.

    I loved working as a kid and I distinctly recall looking forward to getting a job. For me it was more about proving I was responsible than the money. My first real job was shining shoes/boots on a military base and I could not believe how much money I was making. I still like working and would do my current job for half the money! I enjoy it that much.

  2. A couple thoughts:

    1) I keep reading here that summer jobs for 16-18 yo’s are few to nonexistent. Which is it?

    2) 20 years ago the savings from working part time during the school year and full time over the summer could actually add up to something useful. It might be enough to buy and operate a decent used car if your parents didn’t just give you one, or it might be a useful amount to save for college – not like it would pay your whole way, but it might pay for a semester or two, maybe three even. Useful. With current college costs and minimum wage, I’m not sure that working for those two years makes a meaningful contribution to your college fund. And I haven’t priced low end used cars lately but was under the impression they cost more than they used to, not to mention gas is $4/gal instead of $1/gal. Minimum wage hasn’t quadrupled in that same time period.

    3) Supposedly college is more difficult to get into than it used to be, and every kid has 10 activities and something that makes them a unique snowflake. I don’t read college applications so I don’t know, but that’s what I hear. If true, it might be sensible to put all of one’s effort into grades and activities, rather than paying work that doesn’t pay enough to be worthwhile.

    4) General levels of distraction which fit with the laziness angle.

  3. Let’s compare yesterday with today from the perspective of my youth work history

    Then: Age 11-13 Picked Green Beans and Strawberries
    Now: Mechanical harvesting has eliminated pole beans. Child labor laws prohibit children from working even in agricultural jobs

    Age 15-18: Held various jobs in local canneries during the summer (was a teamster, woohoo!).
    Now: Almost all of the canneries where I grew up have long since closed their doors.

  4. Make a blanket-statement about 14% of the population? Nope, not gonna do it.

    My two sons busted their asses when they were teenagers. Some, don’t. I don’t now the percentages of each group.

  5. They’re lazy as fuck AND there are no jobs. I had paper route, but these days about 1 house on each block gets the paper and the routes are done by a 35 year old with a car who delivers the papers @ 4:30 AM. Theoretically kids can create their own jobs – cutting grass, for example, but most people would rather hire a crew of 30 year old Mexicans than a 15 year old American kid. Besides, grass starts growing in the spring and into the fall and American teenagers only have time to cut grass in the summer. In fact, why would a Burger King want to hire a high school student who can only work 20 hours a week between 4 – 11 PM when they can hire an adult Mexican with a stolen ID who can work at all hours, really needs the job and can’t afford to be fired?

  6. “I agree. If they want a job they can find one.” ——– IndenturedServant


    I want to disagree with that. I could post graphs showing 20% teen unemployment. But, I know you know that.

    OTOH ….

    Our garage is too small for a car and lawnmower, and we don’t have a shed. So we farm out that duty. We fired the guy we used last year. Forty bucks per cut for a SMALL yard?? (Takes about 15 minutes.) So, early this spring I put a sign out on the big tree in the front yard — “Help Wanted. Mow Lawn. $30.”

    Not one response.

    Lazy fuckers ………

  7. A lot of kids are being raised in the FSA family value unit. Makes sense. Why work Mom don’t dad in the jailhouse

  8. Entertainment is too cheap and free these days. When I was a kid (I’m 28 btw) we did things outside. As videogames became more prevalent, more asses stayed glued to seats.

    But it wasn’t until the early 2000’s when cable got 700 channels and the internet became truly ubiquitous that kids completely stopped being interested in the outside world.

    Even worse, most parents are so damned terrified that their baby might die out in the wide-world that they will only ever let their kids outside with parental supervision at state-sanctioned activities.

    Today’s kids are lazy, yes, but today’s parents are also lazy. The point of childhood isn’t to have as much magical fairy fun time as possible. The point of being a child is to prepare yourself for adulthood, emotionally, educationally and physically.

    Most 18 year olds are fat idiots that couldn’t run a mile if you held a gun to their head.

    @Stucky – When I was a kid, we routinely turned away teens/pre-teens asking if we needed our side-walk shoveled or yard mowed.

    Only once has someone asked me that here, and it was my neighbor who was in his 40s and he’s a damned nice guy.

    Its an old house, and a former short-sale to boot, so it needs work. Ergo, I’m outside fixing gutters/gardening/landscaping/mowing frequently.

    I live between the local highschool and some basketball courts about 3 blocks away. A LOT of teens are in the area.

    Not a once has someone asked if I’d like to pay for some help. The first kid with the balls to ask me that is going to get $10/hr and his lunch paid for, just for showing some damned gumption.

  9. One of the noticeable changes I see is the ethnic make up of the job force compared to what I remember from the 1970s. Many of the jobs like landscaping, dish washing, food prep, bus boy are often taken by a Hispanic. I am not saying this is good or bad it just is. Companies will hire the most reliable and cost effective personnel the can, that is just the way it is. I do find that kids that want jobs can find them.

    I have told this story before so bare with me. My son got home from the last day of school in his junior year in high school. When mom got home from work he was playing a game on his computer as usual. This went on for a couple of says before my wife asked him about work prospects for the summer. He declared that he did not have to work, that school was his work and he was done for the year. The Mrs. went ballistic, kicked him physically out of the house and locked him out. Proceeded to call me at work and tell me to get him before she killed him. I drove home told him to get into the truck, this was a Friday, I drove 35 miles back to the office at 6:30 pm to show him much of the office was still at work so that I might continue to have a job. I then drove him to each of our 5 job sites ranging from Burlington to the Cape. As we got home at 10:30 pm I told him he would start work on Monday and be dressed and ready to leave the house by 5:50 am. I told him if he was not dressed I would drag him out to the truck and drive him to a job site and leave him there in whatever he slept in. He was ready Monday morning I drove him to Belmont, where my toughest project manager ran a tight ship. His first job was breaking off snap ties and sweeping out the buildings. For those who don’t know what a snap tie is, it is the is the end of the metal rod that sticks out of the foundation after you strip the panels. You take a 2 pound hammer and beat it back and forth until it snaps, there can be hundreds per house. There is a tool for this but he did not have the strength to use it. He did this for several days and moved on to various other sight maintenance fun. After two weeks he miraculously found an internship at a lab my neighbor ran. A job he still has today at twenty some 5 years later. He still keeps a handful of snap ties on the shelf next to his desk as a reminder. He’s a smart kid and a good kid, but even they sometime need a boot in the ass. and yes my daughter also works she has been working since she was 13 baby sitting and scoops ice cream in between, but today she is out at her college orientation.


  10. The kids are only following the examples they have.

    Parents always screaming about how “hard” work is, their POS bos, how “unfair” it is. And that is IF they work, which increasingly, they don’t.

    Plus the same parents hovering and bubble-wrapping, scared little Johnny is going to be molested if he goes forth and spends time away from parents or “supervised, after-curricular activities.” Great point TPC.

    As for the crap for college, what a load of malarkey. When I was that age most of the best students held jobs AND participated in sports, plus pulled high grades. What was expected of them, was done by those that had goals and/or families that cared.

    Now, our kids are schooled by reporters and teachers, all union, constantly being told how evil bosses are and how horribly unfair jobs are. Again, whom in the hell would sign up for that.

    Now, for the other side. If I had a choice between hiring a snot-nosed, know-everything, brat, or a 40 something returning to the work force, I know whom I would choose, especially if I’m forced to pay them $10 an hour. What moron would hire a teen for that rate?

    There is always work for those that are motivated to find it. Always. Problem is, there is so few reasons to work, plus lots of downsides.

    You all do realize that if Mom and/or Dad make poverty level wages and are sucking tit for food, medical and housing, Junior’s job will jeopardize it all, while providing no backup for when Junior goes away to school.

    I saw this time and time again in the low-income housing my sis used to live it. Kids were told NOT to work, cause their wages would cut the food stamps for their siblings AND they would have to pay the housing managers 25% of the kid’s GROSS.

    We are fubar on so many levels, this is yet one more.

  11. I have distant relatives who are dairy farmers. Maybe they’d take my 15 year old son for a couple weeks. I’d pay them.

  12. Obviously the solution is to raise the minimum wage to $15, as the fast food union agitators want. Of course a $15 wage would cost the employer $18, once you add in payroll costs. That makes a lot of fucking sense.

  13. My 19 year old son is home from college for the summer.

    Between my place, his dad’s place and a few friends/neighbors he had plenty of work – but he wanted a job and was filling out applications all over town. After three weeks he was able to get one but only because his dad’s friend knew the owner.

    He is the ONLY anglo working in the kitchen and his Spanish has improved. Come mid-august he goes back to school to a State college town without nearly enough shit student jobs to go around.


  14. I worked part time jobs from age 14 until I graduated from Ga. Tech. It has been full time since. 40 years all told.

    My “best job” was working as a bus boy at Stone Mountain Inn Restaurant. I frequently had the task of taking 50 gallon trash cans of slop (all the stuff that was cleared off the dishes when customers were done) from the 2nd flor kitchen down to the basement and, by hand, pushing all the shit into a garbage disposal only about twice as big as your average kitchen disposal. It was especially enjoyable when the container took 3 days or so to fill. The aroma of that still brings back other fond memories of that job. At least the first manager was a nice guy, the second one was a little Hitler (well, how I perceived it at the time. I am pretty sure I would see it differently now).

  15. Funny thing is that the minimum wage in NZ is $14.25 and prices are not THAT much more than in the U.S. once you know where to shop (there are notable stabbing exceptions to this where prices are insane but that is because of people cornering a small market, can talk about that some other time). Not that I buy them but you can get Dominos pizza over here for $5 and McDonald’s (and the other fast food places) has the value menu too. From what I have seen of the change in food prices over there, maybe that exaplains some of it when better quality NZ beef, for example, costs less than CAFO beef in the U.S.

    Don’t know what to make of that as would have though prices would be much higher across the board. s The age distribution in the entry level jobs is broad but plenty of young people seem to have jobs and they are from all ethnic groups, no concentrated in one or two. And frankly, bless my raciss’ ass, that was refreshing to see all ethnicities doing all the job types.

  16. One of the problems (repeat “one”) teens face when looking for a job is that they can’t read, write or do any math at all in their heads (or at least in Florida, 56% can’t).

    This places certain restrictions on entry level jobs – they need jobs that can be done by people who cannot read, write or do math. Not very much work with that qualification list.

    Around here, 99% of lawn maintenance workers are black. The guys who trim trees and grind them up are all white. The ones who dig ditches are all black – with a white supervisor.

    @BostonBob: Good on you..


  17. I have a neighbor with four teenage sons and a lawn service cuts his lawn, claims his sons are “too busy” to do it. it’s pathetic

  18. At the tender age of sixteen, I opened my first Chinese restaurant with no help from anyone except a few dozen stray neighborhood cats.
    Don’t tell me there aren’t opportunities in gainful employment for kids with the will and the want.

  19. Stucky, you may not agree but two guys I work with have teenage kids who found jobs in less than a week and all the teenage kids in our astronomy club have at least one job. Some have two. I think that if you WANT a job you can find one. The key seems to be WANTING a job and having parents who instill a work ethic in their children.

  20. Stucky says:

    “bear with me”

    “bare your ass”

    That’s how it rolls.

    Stuck, how did you miss this gem: “Why work Mom don’t dad in the jailhouse”

  21. mr cotton says:
    “I have a neighbor with four teenage sons and a lawn service cuts his lawn, claims his sons are “too busy” to do it. it’s pathetic”

    LOL! My brothers and I were not allowed to get “too busy” to mow the lawn or do other chores. Our priorities were school, chores then fun stuff if we had not fucked up and got ourselves grounded for one reason or another. I suppose mom & dad might have made an exception to chores if we had been Rhodes Scholars or something.

    One entire industry of jobs that is no longer available to kids is automotive work. You could always find a job pumping gas, changing oil, tires etc when I was a kid.

  22. Not only do younger people sense the economy’s fucked, but older people are working the jobs younger people used to work to get their foot in the door.

    Also, the .gov has created such a disincentive to be entrepreneurial, the kids that could start a renaissance have flown the coop & gone overseas.

    A kid can’t even have a small library for people on his front lawn! This kids’ spirit has to have taken a hit.

  23. Also, lots of lazy parents from all economic stratas. Rich kids’ families think every 1 of their brats will be a lawyer or doctor. Middle class people don’t want their kids to get their hands dirty, & the poor usually live in areas where their are no jobs (maybe that’s why they’re poor?) or spend all their money on stupid shit that keeps them poor (trying to look rich or keep up with the Joneses).

    What none of the economic classes realize is that without a Middle Class, the whole fucking economy is toast as the Middle Class tended to be the smaller business owners & the entrepreneurs. The rich & poor can be lazy as heel, it’s just the rich can afford to be lazy while living off capital gains, interest, & financialization since they are closer to the Fed funny money spigot.

  24. Next thing you know those crazy-ass capitalistic brats will want to be opening a lemonade stand…and there goes the neighborhood .This is why NIMBY’s have zoning ordinance …to protect us from those who want to do something ..independent of government control.. Freedom to create will not be tolerated in our modern collective society.

    Why We Need Government: To Prevent 9-Year-Olds From Running Free Little Lending Libraries

    Brian Doherty|Jun. 19, 2014 11:27 am
    Leawood city leaders have told Spencer Collins that he has to stop sharing books with his neighbors.

    Collins had to take down his little free library, essentially a communal bookshelf, on Wednesday. The motto of the sharing center had been “take a book, leave a book,” but Collins learned there’s a lot less give and take in city government….

    And, for gawd sake don’t try to film a collective’s hive of regulatory masturbation.

    Advances in providing for the education and enlightenment of the general public, from the city of Leawood, Kansas, as reported by KMBC TV:

    Leawood city leaders have told Spencer Collins that he has to stop sharing books with his neighbors.

    Collins had to take down his little free library, essentially a communal bookshelf, on Wednesday. The motto of the sharing center had been “take a book, leave a book,” but Collins learned there’s a lot less give and take in city government….

    “When we got home from vacation, there was a letter from the city of Leawood saying that it was in code violation and it needed to be down by the 19th or we would receive a citation,” said Spencer’s mother, Sarah Collins.

    Leawood said the little house is an accessory structure. The city bans buildings that aren’t attached to someone’s home.

    The hand of government is wise, and sympathetic, but it must be firm:

    “We empathize with them, but we still have to follow the rules,” said Richard Coleman of the City of Leawood. “We need to treat everybody the same. So we can’t say if somebody files a complaint but we like the little libraries — we think they’re cute — so we ignore it. We can’t do that.”

    Because Leawood is a community that cares about culture, but also about safety: “Leawood said it has received two complaints about Spencer Collins’ library.”

    Meanwhile, the utopian anarchists in neighboring community Prairie Valley “told KMBC 9’s Haley Harrison that the city simply doesn’t enforce codes that would restrict little free libraries.”

  25. The past couple of days we have been making hay while the Sun shines, literally. There are several acres of hillsides too steep to mow with the sickle bar cutter, so my 17 year old son and I cut them with scythes and then rake the cut grass into windrows where it dries. These have to be flipped at least three times before we pick them up and make haycocks for the cattle. Scything is about 70% cutting and 30% honing and peening the blade so it involves extreme physicality and focused precision work with hammer, anvil and whetstone. Add to it the delicate rake work of tossing the cut grass into windrows on slopes that pitch like a 7:12 roofline and you start to get the picture.

    Of all the things that we do it is the most physically draining, the most demanding in terms of straight through work- from just after the dew dries in the morning until we finally break for supper at 8:30 or so. We talk to one another off and on about books, about history, about family about his future. He is leaving in a week to backpack his way through Europe, from Barcelona to Geneva and we will miss him, but until then he works beside me harder than 90% of most adult males in our culture. The group he is going with are predominantly the sons and daughters of the well to do. Jokingly I told him that when they sit around the alpine huts in the evening watching the last light fade from the snow covered slopes of Mont Blanc and they are gossiping about their early admission to Yale or Harvard he tell them about how he paid his way on the trip by felling oaks and then splitting them into fence rails, or digging a well by hand, or scything the steep hillsides of his family farm to make hay for his flocks and herds for the Winter ahead.

    “You know they won’t believe it.” he says.

    “But you’ll know it’s true.” I reply.

    And this is followed by the soft snicking sound of blade against stem, in cadence, for quite some time.

    The fact that so many have surrendered their lives to indolence and sloth says a great deal about the culture we inhabit. That their children follow in their footsteps is to be expected because that is the example that they set and it is all that they will likely ever know. It is not an excuse, however for those who understand their responsibility as parents, who believe in a better future for their own children, who plan further ahead than their next EBT transfer from Uncle Sugar.

    After we had finished last night we took a walk into the south pasture where the cattle were grazing and studied the grasses, talked about the nitrogen benefits of the various clovers and vetches, and about his plans for building a couple of hobbity cottages along the bouldered hillsides where the stately maples grew in profusion. He sees the farm as a destination for moneyed urban types with an itch to visit the countryside for a long weekend, where they can wake up in the morning to the sound of ewes bleating to their lambs, and eat fresh eggs with yolks the color of tangerines. I listen to him talk about his love for this piece of property, about the light falling in the forest never penetrates deep enough to shake off the blue darkness inside, and even after his day how much he enjoys working beside me.

    Next week when he boards his flight, by himself with nothing but his backpack and the clothes he is wearing, I will be watching him go with a small degree of sadness, but with such a deep well of pride in him that it will temper anything else. He is confident well beyond his years, bright and funny and completely fearless of the future unlike so many of his contemporaries, and he has earned his trip from the sweat of his brow, something that means more to him than he understands right now. But one day he will and it will be a foundation upon which he will build his own future.

    I feel bad for the teenagers that miss this, but my son is not one of them, and he makes his parents very proud.

  26. Hardscrabble,
    Your words are like music, sweet music. I have scythed hay in my misbegotten youth.Proper sharpening is a dying art. I can still sharpen a chisel so that when you break off the fine wire after stropping it is sharp enough to shave the hair off your arm My brother used to go up to Canada to visit my uncles to help hay the fields. When we had goats as kids Mr. Carbonne would bring in 5 tons of hay down from Canada for the winter and we would haul it up the second floor of the barn, my brother and I. Heavy work for a pair of young teenagers. We never gave it a second thought. We all still work in construction on one level or another. Hard work is in our blood. My mom at 80 still sells real estate and just yesterday was pitching a development project to my company. I think more teenagers would benefit and appreciate life with a dose of good physical labor.

    I think your son is right, while I am not rich there are people like me that would treasure a day or two at your farm whether scything hay or splitting rails. One of the reasons I enjoy volunteering repairing homes in Mississippi each summer is the shear joy of the physically helping someone not just writing a check.



    Not sure if the link comes up, but worth a watch. A couple of young women scything hay. Watch how effortless it looks and then notice how much they have cut in the field behind them.

    There’s something hypnotic about the process when you get into the groove and the smell of the hay when it’s cured is like the sweetest perfume on Earth.

    Time to head out and rake-

  28. Johnny Cash wore black to pay respect to the poor, those @ the bottom rung of society, & those in prisons.

    A great man.

  29. Why would a kid work when his parents give him a car, spending money,an x-box, i-phone ,an i-pad,i-pod, a warm place to sleep until noon,all the junk food and snacks he wants ,no standards of behavior and no responsibility. It appears to me that we have the children we cultivated.

    There are ways to fix the situation, if we have the balls.

  30. HF

    Looked at the video. I’d love doing that. It’s so rhythmic….and what great exercise for keeping the waist slim!

    Few days of that and you go from this to this:



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