When Summer is No Vacation: What You Need to Know about Summer Jobs
It’s that time of year. School is out, and many high school and college students are just beginning their summer jobs. Temporary summer work stints aren’t just for students though. If you’re going through a job transition or interested in exploring different parts of the country, then a summer job might be just the thing.
After digging into the data, we found the most prevalent summer jobs opportunities are not lifeguarding by the pool or working at a gift shop on the beach. Here are the highlights of what we discovered:
- Education is far and away the top summer job category, and other positions working with kids are not far behind.
- Hospitality has the highest concentration of summer jobs thanks to summer resorts opening for business.
- If you think the hottest summer job market is on Cape Cod or the Jersey Shore, think again. Modesto, CA, in the heart of the nation’s richest agricultural region, leads the pack. Portland, ME, which draws plenty of summer visitors, comes in second. San Francisco, an educational mecca, is in third place.
Here’s a warning though: If you haven’t started searching for your summer job yet, time is running out.
When to nail down that summer job
The graph below shows that summer job opportunities have become significantly more prevalent in recent years. The 2016 peak was 15% higher than the 2015 peak, and the 2017 peak is 20% higher than the 2016 peak.
The past few years of data show that summer job postings top out in April or May and then decline sharply until they hit bottom in October. Job seekers seem to be aware of this trend and follow a similar pattern: Searches for summer jobs peak in May and then decline rapidly.
Searches for summer jobs have not grown as rapidly or consistently as postings. This is good news for anyone seeking a summer position—job opportunities per job seeker are higher today than they were two years ago.
Another sign of the tightening labor market for seasonal workers is the influx of applications received this year for H-2B visas, which are reserved for temporary nonagricultural workers. In the first three months of the year, over 88,000 applications were filed, while only 33,000 slots are available for seasonal workers whose six-month stay starts in April and ends in September. Many businesses that hire foreign workers in the summer to boost their headcount are now struggling to fill open slots.
What are the summer job opportunities?
When we think about classic summer jobs, a lifeguard or cashier at an ice cream parlor come to mind. But is this image accurate? Indeed’s job posting data for the first five months of 2017 allow us to identify which types of summertime work are most prevalent this year. We first highlight the job categories with the most summer job postings. We then dive into the job categories with the heaviest concentration of summer opportunities.
The table below shows us that nearly one in four summer job opportunities are in the education sector.
Teachers are often under contract to teach from the fall through the spring, but many students need continued education in the summer. As a result, demand for summer educators is high. Demand is slightly greater for elementary school teachers, followed by high school teachers, tutors and special education teachers, according to Indeed summer job postings.
Many education positions require specialized skills and degrees, so they may not be options for people without the necessary background. However, the social/recreational service and childcare sectors are areas with substantially lower barriers to entry and ample summer opportunities. Many positions in these categories are related to caring for or entertaining children while they’re out of school. Babysitters, camp counselors and child care assistants are a few examples of summer jobs in most demand in the social/recreational service and childcare categories.
Which jobs opportunities are most heavily concentrated in the summer?
Only 4% of Indeed’s summer job postings are in the hospitality category, making it the sixth largest summer job category. But hospitality rises to the first spot among job categories with the heaviest concentration of summer opportunities.
The table above shows that 2.8% of job opportunities in the hospitality category are specifically earmarked for the summer, nearly twice as high a percentage as education, the next most concentrated category. Tourism is the most glaring example of an industry heavily dependent on temporary summer employees. In many vacation hotspots, hotels and restaurants are nearly empty three-quarters of the year. So, not surprisingly, their demand for labor changes dramatically over the course of the year.
Where are the summer job opportunities?
We were curious if we would also see geographic differences in demand for summer employees. In general, tourist destinations farther north show more pronounced seasonal differences, which makes sense because the weather shifts so dramatically. Tropical locations see less flux in demand for seasonal workers because their climate is so consistently balmy. However, as noted above, most demand for summer work is related to educating, caring for and entertaining children—which may vary less from north to south.
We know beach towns need more laborers in the summertime, but these don’t generally figure among the 10 US cities with the highest concentration of summer jobs. Number one, Modesto, CA, is nowhere near salt water, yet its summer job concentration is more than three times the US average. Modesto’s typical summer worker is more likely to be a grape picker than a lifeguard. Agricultural jobs are more concentrated in the summer than all but seven other job categories, and Modesto is surrounded by rich farmland and home to the world’s largest private winery. Agricultural job openings are two times more common in Modesto than in the rest of the US.
Portland, ME, second on the concentration list, is a little closer to the summer job stereotype. Maine’s largest city is frequented by tourists, but its bitterly cold winters are no time to flock there. Cold winters also help explain why Madison, Lancaster, Albany, Philadelphia and Springfield are in the top 10—they’re all more enjoyable in the summer. Philadelphia and Springfield respectively have social/recreational service job postings 2.9 times and 2.0 times larger than the US concentration as a whole, and 15% of summer jobs are in the social/recreational service category.
It’s more surprising to see three California cities besides Modesto in the top 10: San Francisco, Fresno and San Jose. All three have larger-than-average concentrations of education jobs and, in each of them, the top summer jobs category is education. In both San Francisco and San Jose, the three most-in-demand summer jobs are instructors, camp counselors and art teachers. In Fresno, elementary school teachers, cashiers and library technicians are most in demand.
Alas, summer job postings have undoubtedly begun their steep decline this month. Nonetheless, rising employer demand for summer employees combined with restrictions on the supply of seasonal foreign workers could make 2017 a great year for all you procrastinators who put off your summer job search until the last minute.
For this analysis, we categorized a job posting as a summertime job if it contained the word “summer” in the title. We excluded summer internships because we found notable differences in what types of work they were for, when and where they were posted, and when people searched for them. We believed combining the two types of summer work would muddle the results. The time frame for the job category and geographic analysis was January 1, 2017 to June 1, 2017.
Valerie Rodden is an Economic Research Analyst for the Hiring Lab. She received her B.S. in economics from the George Washington University.