Whether lifeguarding, babysitting, or slinging sandwiches from behind a deli counter, the summer job is a teenage rite of passage. At least, it was.

Between 2000 and 2010, the number of 16- to 19-year-olds in the US with a summer job fell off a cliff.

But recent data from Pew Research Center suggests summer employment is back on the upswing after dropping early in the pandemic.

From 1948 to 2000…

… over half of US teens ages 16-19 held summer jobs. But that number fell hard in the following decade:

  • By 2010, less than 30% had summer jobs
  • After rising steadily for the next decade, that percentage dropped to 30.8% in 2020

But in 2021, teens bounced back, with 36.6% of 16- to 19-year-olds joining the workforce. Early data suggests the trend will continue this summer.

So, where are teens working?

Until 2001, the largest sector for teen workers was retail, but for the last two decades, that title goes to accomodation and food services. The category includes hotels, restaurants, snack shacks, and similar roles.



If you’re looking for the big money, you may want to practice your sidestroke. A recent report shows ~100 lifeguards in California made $200k+ last year amid a nationwide shortage.

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