How COVID Affected the Work Lives of Teens

When the COVID pandemic hit in March of 2020 and everyone thought we would just be getting a two week break from school, nobody was prepared for what was really in store. The shutting down of all schools, businesses, public venues, restaurants, and pretty much every public place has enormous effects on the majority of people’s lives and specifically their jobs. Adults and teenagers alike struggled to become and/or stay employed based on the numerous closings of businesses happening daily. 

With the bulk of quarantine happening during the summer months, teenagers in particular were unable to find summer jobs in 2020, which is a traditional part of being a high schooler. Working a part time job is a vital experience for teenagers to have in order to get a taste of the real world, acquire valuable skills, and learn how to manage money. Generally, jobs in the fast food industry, camp counselors, lifeguarding, and nannying are very popular part time jobs for high schoolers, but thanks to COVID, most restaurants, camps, and pools shut down, and due to the quarantine nobody needed a nanny. The summer is a convenient time for teens to get jobs due to the increase in availability since school is out, so the lack of job opportunities and everything shutting down made for a pretty disappointing summer for most: no money and nowhere to go. 

During the month of April, the first full month of the pandemic, the employment rate for kids between the ages of sixteen and nineteen was thirty percent, and for young adults between the ages of twenty and twenty-four, it was twenty-four percent. By September, it was still 14.6 percent for sixteen-nineteen-year-olds and 11.7 percent for 20-24 year olds. For some, this was extremely costly due to the fact that some families require their teen’s income for financial support or if college kids were in a situation where they had to provide for themselves. They had no source of income. The food and retail industries were among the hardest hit. Teenagers and young adults make up a huge amount of workers in retail and food areas, so the closings led to teens and young adults being laid off left and right, and the inability for fresh teens to become employed. Charlotte Roop, a senior here at Apex High, spoke on the subject and she stated, 

“I had a job with Cary Rec Sports starting in November of 2019 as a scorekeeper, and we had finished the basketball season at the end of February of 2020. When the pandemic hit in March, I had just completed all of my training for the upcoming baseball season and was excited to start going to all of the games, but the whole staff was laid almost immediately when the quarantine started. It was my first job, and I was really enjoying working, but it was short lived thanks to COVID.”

Although this lasted the entire summer, thankfully, beginning in the fall of last year, the restrictions were lifted slightly and adaptations were able to be made in the workplace like social distancing and the implementation of masks and hand sanitizing stations. For jobs that didn’t require the exchange of goods or human contact, they were all moved online, and the world began to learn the art of telework which has also been implemented for schools as we all know. 

While the past year and a half was difficult for everyone, and teens in particular, summer 2021 is looking a little more promising due to businesses and establishments slowly reopening in the recent months. Many teenagers have been able to find jobs during this school year that have been adjusted to suit the mandatory restrictions due to COVID. People of all ages already have or are in the process of returning to work and most places are beginning to hire new employees, so hopefully teens and young adults can stay employed this year and have a more rewarding summer. The pandemic and quarantine has tested everyone in ways nobody thought was possible, but as a community we are slowly but surely adapting and solving the problems it has thrown our way. Allowing teens to find jobs again is a step in the right direction for overcoming this pandemic! 

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