Many of the owners of restaurants, amusement parks, and retail stores, who desperately needed workers, expressed unusual gratitude to the teenagers.

Due to the pandemic recession and increased customer demand, the U.S. economy is receding at an unexpected rate, and high school children are filling in for older workers. As a result, teenagers who are willing to work in restaurants or work as lifeguards in water parks charged $15, $17 or more per hour, and in some cases have bonuses for paying for their school courses.

This trend marked a change in the period following the ‘Great Recession, of 2007 to 2009 when older workers were often employed in these jobs, while teenagers were sometimes driven out. This time, severe labor shortages, especially in restaurants, tourism and entertainment, once again made young workers very popular.

We’re very thankful they are here,’’ says Akash Kapoor, CEO of Curry Up Now. Fifty teenagers are working this summer at his five San Francisco-area Indian street food restaurants, up from only about a dozen last year. “We may not be open if they weren’t here. We need bodies.”

The percentage of Americans aged 16-19 who have a job is higher than in previous years: in May, 33.2% of people had a job, the highest rate since 2008. Although this number dropped to 31.9% in June, as reported by the Ministry of Labor. This was even higher than the level before the pandemic destroyed the economy last spring.

There’s never been a better time to apply for a job if you’re a teen,” says Mathieu Stevenson, CEO of Snagajob, an online job site for hourly work.

Previously, there was a long-term decline in teen employment that has led many analysts to regret the end of summer jobs because summer jobs provide young people with work experience and opportunities to communicate with colleagues and clients from different backgrounds.

This summer, things are rather different. After collapsing last spring, the economy has rebounded much faster than expected. Restaurants, bars, retail shops and amusement parks have been overwhelmed by pent-up demand from consumers who had mostly hunkered down for a year or more.

Compounding the labor squeeze, many older Americans have been slow to respond to a record number of job openings. Some have ongoing health concerns or trouble arranging or affording child care when schools transition from remote to in-person learning. Other adults may have been discouraged from seeking work because of generous federal unemployment benefits, though many states have dropped these benefits.

So, businesses are offering signing bonuses and whatever else they can to hire teens in a hurry. All that said, the reinforcement of teen employment might not last. The pre-pandemic trend toward fewer young workers at restaurants and entertainment venues could restate itself if the economy’s labor shortages are ultimately resolved.

Still, Harrington, director of Drexel’s labor markets center, notes that “employers have moved down the labor queue as the labor supply of adults has become more constrained.’’

If the economic recovery continues to reduce unemployment, and if federal policymakers continue to restrict the influx of low-skilled foreign workers, “then the chances for sustained growth in teen employment rates are good,’’ Harrington said.

Source: US News