According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, teen employment has been decreasing in all industries, including retail. When teen workforce participation hit its peak in 1979, 58% of teenagers aged 16-19 were working. The number dropped to 52 % in the early 2000s and is now at 34%. BLS attributes the drop to a number of factors that are related more to social changes than to a shortage of jobs. For instance, parents are pushing their children more toward college prep and college than towards getting a job while in high school. While in times past, students have worked to help pay for college, the gap between entry level pay and skyrocketing college tuition makes the effort to save for college seem pointless, discouraging teens from working for that reason.

Some teens are earning money online (up to 22% according to a study by the National Retail Federation and IBM global) or are earning money in other ways not tracked by the BLS (16%). Other teens choose not to work. Only 10% of teens who don’t work actually want a job.

In spite of these statistics, teen employment is rising in retail. Since the economic crash in 2008, at least 55% of working teenagers have been employed in retail, more than in any other sector of the economy. While the percentage has grown in retail, it has experienced a corresponding drop in the other areas of the economy.

Retailers seeking to hire capable teens to fill their ranks may find success by learning about NRF’s RISE Up program, which helps train and credential workers for retail employment. For more information visit