More Teens and Young Adults Entering Labor Force Ahead of Summer

Restaurants are expected to add 502,000 seasonal jobs this summer – the strongest hiring season since 2017 (530,000), according to the National Restaurant Association’s annual Eating and Drinking Place Summer Employment Forecast.

Although the overall labor poll remains tight – the unemployment rate was 3.4 percent in April – the association is expecting a pre-summer uptick in the industry’s prime labor pool. A higher number of teenagers and young adults – the age groups most likely to seek seasonable jobs – are seeking jobs than in recent years. Six million 16- to 19-year-olds were in the labor force in April, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an increase of 700,000 from pre-pandemic levels in 2019 and the largest number for the month of April since 6.1 million in 2009. Further, the number of working 16- to 19-year-olds is expected to reach 7 million during peak summer months as more students are available.

This is especially notable for restaurants, as the industry is the economy’s largest employer of teenagers. More than 1.9 million 16- to 19-year-olds work in restaurants, representing 34 percent of the entire working age group.

The number of available young adults also appears to be growing this summer. There were 15.4 million 20- to 24-year-olds in the labor force in April 2023, an increase from 15 million in April 2019 and the highest April reading since 1984 (15.7 million).

The full Eating and Drinking Place Summer Employment Forecast is available here.