Young Gen Zers are 'flocking' to summer jobs as businesses desperate to fight the Great Resignation offer higher pay and require less experience

Young Gen Zers are 'flocking' to summer jobs as businesses desperate to fight the Great Resignation offer higher pay and require less experience
There may also be some opportunities for teenagers who are seeking a job that isn't in close contact with others as the pandemic continues.izusek/Getty Images
  • It's the season for summer jobs and the market is hot for teenagers looking to make some money.
  • Teenagers may be more interested in accepting job offers given the higher wages being advertised.

Employers have been raising their pay to address staffing problems amid the labor shortage and the Great Resignation — and teenagers looking for work are taking notice.

"One of the reasons teens are flocking to the labor market is because this labor shortage has driven up wages at the bottom," Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter, told Insider. "And it has driven them up particularly in these kinds of industries, these face-to-face industries like leisure and hospitality, where many workers left because of COVID risks."

As of the latest monthly data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average wages of production and nonsupervisory workers in leisure and hospitality, which has historically been a lower-paying industry, has increased from $15.59 an hour in April 2021 to $17.56 an hour a year later in April 2022.

But pay isn't just increasing at restaurants and other leisure and hospitality businesses. Pollak noted one job for people 16 and older are babysitters. One teen told The Wall Street Journal's Rachel Wolfe she makes $25 to $30 per hour — double the roughly $15 she made prior to the pandemic. Another recently raised his hourly rate from $10 to $15.

In addition to high pay, however, there are other reasons teens are "flocking" to the workforce.


"They have access to these jobs now because of the reduction in requirements," Pollak added. "And they're less afraid of the risks from contracting COVID because younger people just don't get as ill typically."

Ahead of the summer, April data shows that there has already been a higher share of new hires being teens compared to the same time in previous years. The following chart based on data from Gusto, a small- and medium-sized business payroll and human resources platform, highlights how the share of new hires who are teenagers has been rising based on the past four Aprils.

"Gusto data shows in April 2019, 2% of all new hires among companies on Gusto's platform were 15-19 years old," Luke Pardue, Gusto's economist, told Insider in a statement. "In April 2021, as The Great Resignation ramped up, that share rose to 7.7% – and in April 2022, that share is now 9.3%."

Based on government data, the labor force participation rate for teenagers ages 16 to 19 was 36.6%, higher than the monthly rates last summer but also the same as the pre-pandemic rate in February 2020.

While businesses try to stay afloat amid the labor shortage, teens may be one way to fill jobs as older employees say goodbye to their companies for other roles that may offer higher pay or different benefits.


"For businesses seeking workers with flexibility, teenagers are often ideal candidates because they're able to work during the summer and at hourly wages typically lower compared to older, more experienced workers," Pardue said. "On Gusto's platform, we're seeing teenage workers continue to step in and fill the gap during this economic recovery and be an attractive alternative source of workers for businesses who are struggling to navigate an unprecedentedly tight labor market."

The summer jobs out there for teens vary, but Glassdoor senior economist Daniel Zhao noted they tend to be in-person roles. Andy Challenger of outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas said restaurants, hospitality businesses, and amusement parks especially see excess demand in the summer, so teen job seekers can address some of this demand amid the labor shortage.

Pollak noted some of the jobs out there for teens are at concession stands, lifeguard positions, at camps, and in social media. Additionally, Pollak said "some of the jobs that say we're open to considering a teen" are "more senior than you would normally expect," such as restaurant shift manager jobs.

There may also be some opportunities for teenagers who are seeking a job that isn't in close contact with others as the pandemic continues.

"On Gusto's platform, we've increasingly seen firms in professional services – such as law firms and tutoring services – which often hire older workers, hire teen workers for these positions," Pardue told Insider. "These professional services positions, which often require less face-to-face contact than service-sector jobs, can be an attractive option for teenagers looking to gain work experience but who are hesitant to work in high-exposure industries during an ongoing pandemic."


As teens hand in their last homework assignments and craft their resumes to potential employers this summer, companies may want to take note of this age group as potential new talent for their company, given there are benefits for both the worker and the business.

"Teens are just starting out in the workforce, and getting those opportunities is beneficial for teens who can develop skills and make some money over the summer," Zhao said. "But on top of that for employers, they represent an opportunity to access an untapped pool of workers who might need more training but ultimately can help pay off in the long run if it's too difficult to find other workers."