America's retail apocalypse is changing what it means to be a teenager

AbercrombieGettyTeen jobs in retail are in decline.

Working in retail stores was long considered a rite of passage for many teenagers.

But many teens are now finding it increasingly difficult to get jobs in the industry, which has historically been responsible for a quarter of teen employment, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Retail is one of the few industries that’s willing to hire young entry-level employees with little or no prior experience. That’s why it’s such a popular career for teen workers.

But the industry is undergoing seismic changes under growing pressures from the rise of ecommerce and changing shopper habits.

Photo: Eric Lafforgue/ Art in All of Us/ Corbis via Getty Images.

Most of those changes are happening at the store level, resulting in job cuts, store closures, and bankruptcies.

So far this year, retailers have announced about 3,400 store closures and more than 50,000 job cuts, according to data compiled by the Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Grey & Christmas.

And more than a dozen retailers have filed for bankruptcy since the start of the year, far outpacing last year’s bankruptcies.

“Retail, including long-standing clothing and accessories stores, are pivoting to online sales and continue to cut in-store workers,” John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Grey & Christmas, said in a recent report. “Teenagers will still have many opportunities, but they will not necessarily be in traditional retail stores.”

Teens are now being forced to look outside their local shopping malls for work.

Challenger is advising teens to pursue industries that have been adding jobs this year, which include transportation, hospitality and food service, or construction.

Construction, for example, added more than 170,000 jobs in the six months ending in April.

“This is an area typically left unexplored by teen workers,” Challenger said.

Overall, teen employment is expected to remain stable this year, though it’s a “shadow of its former self,” according to Challenger.

Teen participation in the labour force peaked in July 1978 at 72%. Last year, the rate of participation was 43%.

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