As the summer hiring market heats up, small and seasonal businesses may find they’re missing a key demographic to fill job openings — teenage workers.
Employment consultancy Challenger Gray expects teens to gain 1.1 million jobs by 2023, slightly lower than last year’s figure and the lowest forecast since 2011. say this spring Job levels for teens are again at pre-pandemic levels, but he warns that many teens who are willing to take jobs may already be in the workforce.
The unemployment rate among 16- to 19-year-olds edged up to 11% in June from the previous month, according to the June employment report released by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday. Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate fell year-over-year to 36.3% from 42.9% in June 2022.
That could mean fewer workers available for businesses like Grotto Pizza, which rely heavily on teens, said hiring manager Glenn Byrum.
At Grotto’s 20 plants in Delaware and Maryland, teenagers make up less than a third of the company’s 1,100 employees. They’ve been hiring, but are fully staffed this summer, he said.
“They’re a critical part of our success,” Byrum said, adding that both young workers and J-1 visa employees are helping staff seasonal locations at the beach.
“Teen recruitment is always a process,” he said. “They seem to be more aware of job flexibility, pay levels, and the work environment itself.”
Byrum described the general mindset he saw among young workers stemming from the abundance of job opportunities in the summer.
“If they don’t like what their employer is asking them to do, even if it’s part of the job, they can easily go down the street and find an alternative job that pays the same or better,” he said. “So it keeps us vigilant to make sure we provide the best possible working environment.”
Byrum said Grotto often offered teenage workers above-minimum wages and incentivized some to move between locations when seasonal demand fluctuated.
Lexi Mathis, 16, got a raise to work at Grotto Beach during the summer. The company is flexible with her schedule, she said, and the extra salary helps cover her commute because inflation is still somewhat stubborn.
“I moved here to try and earn a little more tips. It was one of the best decisions ever because it was a big increase and then they gave me a little raise,” Mathis said .
Hiring and labor supply has been a constant headache for small business owners.
The dynamics of worker availability and demand have changed in the wake of the pandemic, and owners often struggle to find skilled and unskilled workers to fill job openings.
The restaurant industry is one of the industries suffering from labor shortages. Restaurants are expected to add another 500,000 jobs by the end of the year, but only one in every two open positions is filled, increasing competition for workers, the National Restaurant Association said.
Makiah Grindstaff has worked at Famous Toastery in Davidson, NC for over two years, both during the school year and during the summer. The high school senior, who has been saving for several goals, said wages can reach $25 an hour, depending on the restaurant role she holds and the day of the week.
Greenstaff said she and her friends are proud to have cash on hand to shop, eat and drive.
“I started driving, gas was expensive, and I wanted to start saving for college,” she said. “I just want to be able to own my own money.”