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Summer Jobs: Teens and Young Adults are Working (and Saving!) More Than You Think

By
Alex Huntsberger
Alex Huntsberger has covered loans, credit scores, and personal finance for OppLoans since 2015. He is a graduate of Oberlin College and a regular contributor to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Updated on March 18, 2021
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Young people get a bad rap for being lazy, but a new OppLoans survey shows that's not the case at all. 

Summer is finally here, and while you might think teens and young adults are all gearing up for some fun in the sun, it seems that most of them are using their time off from school to work.

This might be a surprising revelation if you’ve been following recent reporting around teens and summer jobs. In 2015, Pew Research Center published a study on teen employment that found that less than a third of teens ages 16 to 19 worked during summer break in 2014, down from 58% in 1978.

To their credit, Pew doesn’t think laziness is the reason for this decline. Instead, they cite the fact that fewer low-skill, entry-level jobs exist today than they did in decades past and research that shows today’s teens are spending their summers volunteering, taking classes, and working unpaid internships at a rate that far outpaces previous generations.

But our recent survey on teens, young adults, and summer jobs tells a different story. Of the 1,000 people ages 14-24 who participated in the survey, a whopping 63% said they had a job lined up for the summer. Additionally, our data showed that young people with jobs lined up plan to make an average of $4,037 this summer, of which they plan to save an average of 57 percent—or $2,301.

We broke down what we learned in an infographic, which you can check out below, and went into full analysis mode after the graphic!

Teens and Summer Jobs - Infographic

Where are the jobs for young people?

Unsurprisingly, a quarter of the young people who will be working this summer will have a job in the foodservice industry. This makes sense, as restaurants are a good place to find entry-level work as a host, cashier, or server. Retail jobs came in second at 17%, then childcare—likely nannying, babysitting and tutoring—came in third at 11%.

See the full breakdown below:

  • Food Services: 25%
  • Retail: 17%
  • Childcare: 11%
  • Education: 7%
  • Social/Recreational Service: 2%
  • Administrative: 2%
  • Sales: 5%
  • Hospitality: 2%
  • Entertainment: 2%
  • Journalism: 1%
  • Manufacturing: 4%
  • Construction: 3%
  • Transportation: 1%
  • Agriculture: 2%
  • Finance: 1%
  • Health Services: 4%
  • Utilities: 1%
  • Professional/Business Services: 4%
  • Other: 5%

When it comes to job titles, the most commonly reported was “cashier,” followed by “manager,” “babysitter,” and “sales associate.”

What are teens and young adults saving for?

With the cost of living and tuition surging to all-time highs across the country, it should come as no surprise that 45% of our survey respondents are saving up money from their summer jobs to help pay for school or living expenses.

After that, 18% of respondents said they are saving up to travel, 17% are saving to have some spending money during the school year, and 16% plan to use their savings to help support their families.

How are young people getting their jobs?

Seasoned job hunters know that finding employment isn’t about what you know, it’s about who you know. And it seems that today’s young people are learning this lesson early: 31% of survey respondents with summer jobs said they got their position through a friend or family connection. Job hunting sites came in second at 19% and social media was third at 11%:

  • Job search site: 19%
  • Craigslist: 5%
  • Friend or family connection: 31%
  • Word of mouth: 10%
  • Social media: 11%
  • School resources: 8%
  • Google: 12%
  • Other: 5%

Why are so many teens and young adults working?

Well, why do YOU work? If your first answer was “money,” you’re in agreement with 33% of our survey respondents, who said their main reason for getting a summer job was to generate income and build savings.

Learning came next, with 32% of young workers reporting the desire to build new skills, and 19% said they were looking to make career connections.

Forging new friendships was also a popular reason for spending the summer on the grind, with 15% of survey respondents saying they hoped to find new friends at work.

Which regions are leading the charge on summer jobs?

While the majority of young people in every part of the country who took our survey said they would have a job this summer, employment rates varied from region to region.

Young people in the Midwest are more likely to have a summer job than young people living in any other region. In fact, 69% of survey respondents from the Midwest said they will have summer jobs, at which they expect to make an average of $4,251. Young Midwestern workers plan to save, on average, 55% of their income, which comes out to an average of $2,338.

In the Northeast, 67% of teens and young adults say they will have summer jobs, and they plan to make an average of $3,159 throughout the course of the summer. While Northeastern student workers might expect to make slightly less than their Midwestern peers, they’re also planning to save more of their summer income: 61%, or an average of $1,927.

63% of survey respondents living out West will have a job this summer. They’re expecting to make $3,998, of which they plan to save an average of 59%, or $2,359.

While people in the South are the least likely to have a summer job (with just 57% reporting they’ll be working this summer) those who are employed are cleaning up. Southern young people who are employed this summer expect to make an average of $4,319—the highest expected income of any region. Of that $4,319, they expect to save an average of $2,359, or 59%.

What are teens and young adults WITHOUT jobs doing this summer?

While the vast majority of respondents said they would be working this summer, 37% of the teens and young adults we surveyed were job-free heading into the summer. So what will these kids be doing with all their free time? We asked and they answered:

  • 29% say they will be relaxing
  • 16% say they will be taking classes
  • 16% will be studying and preparing for the upcoming school year
  • 13% will spend their time volunteering
  • 13% plan to travel
  • 4% have an unpaid internship
  • and 9% say they will be doing “other,” which we’re taking to mean skydiving lessons. What else could “other” possibly be?

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