Unexpectedly Intriguing!
08 June 2023
Now Hiring sign in front of building by Ernie Journeys via Unsplash - https://unsplash.com/photos/Ha2-2jGRJcI

The month of May is a time of transition for working teens in the U.S. The school year is ending, or is about to. Thousands of employers across the country are ramping up their hiring activity to support their busy summer season.

If you don't count the Coronavirus Pandemic year of 2020, it happens every year. The number of teens entering the ranks of the employed starts swelling in May, rises in June, peaks in July, starts falling in August, and when the new school year begins around or shortly after, drops back to the levels they were before the old school year let out.

Through the magic of seasonal adjustments, the data jocks at the Bureau of Labor Statistics are able to filter out that very familiar and predictable pattern. What they leave behind after their handiwork, for all intents and purposes, gives a good idea of the trends taking place beneath the seasonal noise.

That's the data we're looking at for U.S. teens, where the following charts showing the number of employed teens and the employed teen-to-teen population ratios have been charted from January 2016 through May 2023. The charts show this data for the Age 16-17 group, the Age 18-19 group, and the combined Age 16-19 group. Here are the charts:

U.S. Teen Employment and U.S. Teen Employmenbt to Population Ratio, January 2016 - May 2023

The data for each age demographic has been put through its own seasonal adjustment, which is why the sums of the figures for the Age 16-17 and Age 18-19 groups shown in the chart may not sum to the combined Age 16-19 group. If you want data that adds up, you'll want the non-seasonally adjusted data that includes the summer seasonal employment surge for U.S. teens....

Looking at the teen employment numbers (in the top chart), we see that overall employment of Age 16-19 year olds has generally been rising fairly steadily since October 2020, but is down in May 2023 after having peaked in April 2023. The data for older teens (Age 18-19) is similar. But the data for younger teens indicates that rising tide ended with December 2020, with either a falling (in January-February 2023) or a generally flat trend since.

The teen employment to population ratio is a little more interesting. That's because its showing either a flat or falling trend for two of the three demographic groups. For younger teens (Age 16-17), the share of those with jobs peaked betweeen April 2022 and December 2023, having fallen in the months since.

Meanwhile, the data for the combined group of teens (Age 16-19) shows a similar pattern, but one that lags behind that for younger teens. That data shows a peak between August 2022 and April 2022.

But older teens (Age 18-19) would appear to still be on a rising trend, even though their employed-to-population ratio dipped by the largest amount from April to May 2023. Given the month-to-month volatility of the data, it's too early to identify anything that looks like a change in trend for this group.

With that in mind, we'll see how that developing situation might change through the summer.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Labor Force Statistics (Current Population Survey - CPS). [Online Database.] Accessed: 2 June 2023.

Image credit: Photo by Ernie Journeys on Unsplash.

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