Analysis: Teen employment hits 8-year high in May

The summer employment outlook for teens perked up in May, hitting its highest level in eight years, a new survey showed Monday. 

May employment among 16- to 19-year-olds grew by 217,000 in May, a slight improvement over 2013 when 215,000 were hired, according to an analysis by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a firm that examines labor market trends.

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It is the biggest pick up in hiring since May 2006, when 230,000 found jobs in first month of what is typically a three-month surge in teen employment.

Whether that means record-level hiring this summer remains to be seen. 

“It is a little too early to say how young job seekers will fare this year," said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

"The job market is improving, but there is still a lot of competition for job openings, not only with fellow teens but with recent college graduates and job seekers with experience."

Challenger estimated that summer employment gains among teens would be about the same as last year.  

The strong start notwithstanding, June hiring will provide the best indicator of how this year’s teen summer job market stacks up against previous summers.

With May hiring, there are now 4.47 million employed 16- to 19-year-olds, according to data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  

The peak of teen employment usually occurs in July, and then begins to fall in August as many return to school.

Last year, teen employment peaked at 5.14 million in July, after employers added a total of 1.35 million jobs in May.

The total number of teens finding work last summer was down about 3 percent from the previous year, when employment in the age group grew by about 1.4 million.

A factor that could temper teen hiring this summer — the early surge that has happened this year.

The number of employed teenagers increased by 323,000 in March and April, more than double the 143,000 added during the same period last year.  

In fact, in the previous 10 years, teen employment gains in March and April have averaged just 55,000.

“It is difficult to pinpoint why this earlier hiring push occurred and whether those jobs will continue through the summer months, but it could mean that many jobs typically filled by teenagers are already taken," Challenger said. 

"However, even if that is the case, there are likely to be many job opportunities that still exist for young people," he said.

"If hiring remains on par with last year, we can still expect to see around 1.3 million teens find employment this summer."