WASHINGTON -- Once a rite of passage to adulthood, summer jobs for teens are disappearing.
Fewer than three in 10 American teenagers now hold jobs such as running cash registers, mowing lawns or busing restaurant tables from June to August.
The decline has been particularly sharp since 2000, with employment for 16 to 19-year-olds falling to the lowest level since World War II.
Teen employment may never return to pre-recession levels, suggests a projection by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The drop in teen employment, steeper than for other age groups, is partly a cultural shift.
More youths are spending summer months in school, at music or learning camps or in other activities geared for college. But the decline is especially troubling for teens for whom college may be out of reach, leaving them increasingly idle and with few options to earn wages and job experience.
Older workers, immigrants and debt-laden college graduates are taking away lower-skill work as they struggle to find their own jobs in the weak economy. Upper-income white teens are three times as likely to have summer jobs as poor black teens, sometimes capitalizing on their parents' social networks for help.
Overall, more than 44 percent of teens who want summer jobs don't get them or work fewer hours than they prefer.
Source: The Associated Press