Youth Employment Trends
How Many Youths Work?
During the 1996–1998 period, 2.9 million youths age 15 to 17 worked during school months, and 4.0 million worked during the summer months.
Among youths, employment increased markedly with age. During the school months of 1996–1998, only 9% of 15-year-olds were employed in an average month, compared with 26% of those a year older and 39% of 17-year-olds. Youths in each age group were more likely to work in the summer, during which employment rates increased to 18%, 36%, and 48% at each age, respectively.
Despite popular perceptions that youths work more than they did in the past, the proportion of 15- to 17-year-olds who work has declined over time. Employment-population ratios declined with economic downturns in the early 1980s and 1990s. After the decline in the early 1990s, however, the rates did not return to earlier levels. During the 1996–1998 period, a quarter of youths worked during the school months, down from 30% in 1977–1979. Just over a third worked during the summer, down from 43% during the late 1970s.
How Much Do Youths Earn?
The minimum wage often is associated with young workers first entering the labor force. CPS data indicate that earnings were above the minimum wage for most youths, with hourly earnings in the school and summer months about the same. The minimum wage was $5.15 in 1998.
In 1998, median earnings of 15- to 17-year-olds combined were $5.57 per hour. In 1998, the earnings increased with age: 15-year-olds earned a median of $5.38 per hour, 16-year-olds earned $5.52, and 17-year-olds earned $5.65 per hour. Earnings varied slightly across sex and race groups. Hispanic and white males had the highest median hourly earnings; Hispanic and black females had the lowest.
Where Do Youths Work?
About 62% of youths age 15 to 17 employed during the school months of the 1996–1998 period worked in retail trade, more than in any other major industry. Within retail trade, eating and drinking places accounted for the greatest share of employed youths, about one-third of all employed 15- to 17-year-olds. Another 1 in 4 youths was employed in service industries. In the summer, youth employment was less concentrated in retail trade and youths were employed in a wider variety of industries than during the school months. Retail trade still accounted for about half, services increased to 30%, and employment in agriculture and goods-producing industries (mining, construction, and manufacturing) increased. This seasonal pattern of employment also was present in earlier periods.
Percent of U.S. Population Age 15–17 Employed, 1977–1998
|School months||Summer months|
|Total, 15 to 17 years||29.8%||27.6%||24.7%||42.6%||39.6%||33.8%|
|15 years old||17.3||13.7||9.4||29.9||24.5||17.7|
|16 years old||29.5||27.7||25.8||43.2||41.4||36.0|
|17 years old||2.6||40.4||39.0||54.5||51.9||47.8|
|White, 15 to 17 years||33.2||30.9||27.8||46.1||43.3||37.6|
|Black, 15 to 17 years||10.7||12.9||12.8||22.8||23.8||20.1|
|Hispanic origin, 15 to 17 years||19.8||17.1||14.6||30.4||24.2||19.6|
Industries that Employ Largest Share of Youths Age 15–17
|Industry||Percent of total |
|Eating and drinking places||31.3%|
|Miscellaneous entertainment and recreation services||4.5|
|Agricultural production, livestock||3.6|
|Landscape and horticultural services||2.2|
|Newspaper publishing and printing||1.9|
|Agricultural production, crops||1.5|
|Gasoline service stations||1.3|
|Eating and drinking places||32.6%|
|Miscellaneous entertainment and recreation services||4.0|
|Stores, apparel and accessory, except shoe||3.6|
|Nursing and personal care facilities||1.7|
|Child day-care services||1.4|
|State Unemployment Compensation, 2001||Labor and Employment||Permanent Worksite Closures: Extended Mass Layoff Events and Separations by Major Industry Division, 2002–2006|
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