Umbrellas and towels still cover much the shore in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where Steve Downey heads the beach patrol.
His lifeguard stands are less crowded. During peak summer, Downey had a staff of 120, but starting in early August his numbers began thinning as students headed back to school.
“It’s just like a slow steady trickle,” he says. “Every day we lose one or two more.”
Heading into the holiday weekend, he was down to 70 or 80 guards, which means spreading them out further along the 7-mile beach.
Labor Day used to mark the unofficial end of summer, but many schools now start before the holiday — especially this year, as it falls relatively late in the calendar. That means a shorter summer work season for students with summer jobs and the companies that hire them.
Employers who don’t want to find themselves in a short on staff in the late summer may shy away from hiring younger workers. Alicia Sasser Modestino, a labor economist at Northeastern University, says teens now have lots of competition for summer work.
“If you add on one or two more reasons like school starting early or not being about to work past nine at night, it just it makes it a no brainer for the employer to hire the young adult, or the immigrant over the teenager,” she says.
“Teens are the last in the hiring queue,” says Ishwar Khatiwada, a labor economist at Drexel University. “When employers have such a large pool of experience workers to choose from, teens get left behind.”
Despite an improving economy, teen employment rates were essentially flat this summer compared to last year.
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