During economic expansions, the proportion of teenagers in the labor force usually grows. However, during the exceptional labor market conditions of the mid to late 1990s, the labor force participation rate for 16- to 19-year-olds—the share of their population either working or looking for work—changed very little. In fact, in July of each year—the month during which the highest proportion of teens is in the labor market— labor market activity declined substantially and, in 2000, was at its lowest level since 1965.
As the accompanying chart shows, between 1994 and 2000, the July labor force participation rate for teens declined from 65.4 to 62.3 percent. This decline occurred even as the unemployment rate for teens was falling to its lowest level in over three decades. Thus, adverse job market conditions, the usual explanation for declining teen work activity, were not the cause during this period. Data from the Current Population Survey indicate that an increasing rate of school enrollment in the summer was a factor behind the decline in teen summer labor force participation.