Just over a quarter of 16-to-19 year olds (27%) had summer jobs in 2013, according to research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, down from 45% in 2000. The employment picture for teens in 2014 doesn’t look much better, but they don’t necessarily mind.
Employers and teens are agreeing to go their separate ways. Employers are looking for candidates who can hit the ground running, and they aren’t having difficulty finding experienced adults looking to supplement their income with a part-time job. Teens, on the other hand, are delighted to have a summer break from their hectic schedules. Yes, some teens are already pounding the pavement looking for a short-term gig, but the vast majority has different summer plans. After a school year of standardized testing, mountains of homework, senior projects and theses, they’re more than happy to take a few months off to recover before facing their next academic challenge.
The dramatic shift in the economics of seasonal teen employment has some serious implications for marketers.
Teens have less money…
Fewer teens are earning paychecks. But paltry pocket change isn’t always an issue for today’s teens who can keep up with friends and stay entertained without ever having to leave the house. They can skip a trip to the mall, staying in to catch up on season after season of shows they’ve missed on Netflix. They can forego a gathering at the hamburger joint, spending time connecting with friends on Instagram instead.
When they do want to go out and need money, they turn to the same sources that sustained them through the school year: mom and dad. Many parents – particularly the helicopter variety – prefer their teens not to take summer jobs, even though they know they’ll get stuck with the bill. To them, it’s a small price to pay to give their child a break from the stress of school and to be able to keep tabs on them throughout the summer.
For teens, parents holding the purse strings mean they have a little less control over how much they spend and what they spend it on. Teens need to justify purchases to their parents to get the money to afford them, and not all wants and “needs” pass muster. To teens, it’s not a bad trade-off for a summer of idleness before they have to hit the “real world” of college or full-time jobs.
…but more time to spend it
Idle hands are marketers’ play things. Teens might be spending a lot of time online in the summer, but that doesn’t mean they’re immune to advertising or have lost their consumer spirit. Amid navigating to another Tumblr page and queuing up another YouTube video, they’re seeing ads and even doing a little online browsing.
It’s critical for marketers to know where to target teens during the summer, and with many of them holed up at home, online and in-app ads can be particularly effective. Marketers who can help teens make the case to their parents for why they need to have a certain item can have more success.
Teens might end up having to deal with what their parents give them this summer, but they’ll certainly be hitting up their parents for funds. Money for gas for the car? Sure. Yet another “totally sweet t-shirt”? Maybe not. A new pair of flip-flops? Okay. Cash for concert tickets…? Get a job!