Our content is free because we may earn a commission when you click or make a purchase using our site. Learn more about how we make money.

U.S. Cities With the Most Working Teens [2022 Edition]

Getting a job as a teenager is a rite of passage for some, and a necessity for others. Whatever the reason for employment, a first job is a memorable and often harsh introduction to responsibility, financial independence, and hard lessons—like giving the government a substantial cut of a hard-earned paycheck. However, once the norm, holding a job as a teenager has increasingly become something of the past.

Chart1_Teen labor force participation has declined sharply since the 1970s

Labor force participation among 16- to 19-year-olds declined sharply since the late 1970s due to a combination of factors, including greater school enrollment rates, higher participation in after-school activities, and an increased emphasis on college preparation. From 1978 through 2011, the national teenage labor force participation rate fell from a peak of 59.3% to 33.3%. While modest gains were made between 2011 and immediately before the COVID-19 pandemic, teen labor force participation remained low when compared to historical levels.

Chart2_Teens were only age group to see a rise in labor force participation

Like many things in the economy, the COVID-19 pandemic appeared to have disrupted this trend. As businesses reopened after mandated shutdowns, teens were attractive employees due to their low rates of high-risk infections, more flexible schedules, and the suspension of in-person after-school activities. Additionally, the departure of older adults from the labor force due to a lack of childcare, health reasons, early retirement, or the expansion of unemployment benefits left a gap in the labor force that teens were able to fill.

While labor force participation across all workers remains about a percentage point lower today than it was immediately before the pandemic, teen labor force participation is actually up by 1.3 percentage points, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, teens were the only age group to see a rise in labor force participation during the pandemic.

Chart3_Midwestern states have highest teen labor force participation rates

While U.S. teenagers are working at higher rates overall than before the pandemic, the number of working teens varies widely by location. For example, teen labor force participation rates currently exceed 50% in Midwestern states like North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Utah (53.1%) and Maine (50.9%) also report high teenage labor force participation rates. At the opposite end of the spectrum, states in the Sun Belt region and on the coasts report rates below 40%.

These differences are due to a number of cultural, demographic, and economic factors. For instance, the Midwest has a long history of teens working in agricultural settings. Different racial and ethnic groups show large variation in teen labor force participation. Higher minimum wages are believed to negatively impact the number of teens who are able to secure employment. More recently, differences in COVID-19 policy and responses had major impacts on local labor market conditions, which ultimately affected teen workers differently across states.

The data referenced below is from the U.S. Census Bureau. To determine the locations with the most working teens, researchers at Smartest Dollar calculated the percentage of teens in the labor force. In the event of a tie, the location with the greater total number of teens in the labor force was ranked higher. For school enrollment, teens were defined as those between ages 15–19, but for labor force participation, teens were defined as those between ages 16–19.

Here are the U.S. metropolitan areas with the most working teens.

Chart4_Small and midsize metros with the most working teens

Large Metros With the Most Working Teens

Providence, RI

Photo Credit: Richard Cavalleri / Shutterstock

15. Providence-Warwick, RI-MA

  • Teens in the labor force: 43.0%
  • Teens enrolled in school: 90.1%
  • Teens not in school and not in the labor force: 3.2%
  • Median household income: $70,676
Buffalo, NY

Photo Credit: Richard Cavalleri / Shutterstock

14. Buffalo-Cheektowaga, NY

  • Teens in the labor force: 43.5%
  • Teens enrolled in school: 89.6%
  • Teens not in school and not in the labor force: 4.2%
  • Median household income: $59,079
Virginia Beach, VA

Photo Credit: Alexandr Junek Imaging / Shutterstock

13. Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC

  • Teens in the labor force: 44.6%
  • Teens enrolled in school: 84.1%
  • Teens not in school and not in the labor force: 3.6%
  • Median household income: $68,454
Columbus, OH

Photo Credit: Agnieszka Gaul / Shutterstock

12. Columbus, OH

  • Teens in the labor force: 44.9%
  • Teens enrolled in school: 89.4%
  • Teens not in school and not in the labor force: 3.9%
  • Median household income: $66,715
Nashville, TN

Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

11. Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN

  • Teens in the labor force: 45.3%
  • Teens enrolled in school: 88.3%
  • Teens not in school and not in the labor force: 3.6%
  • Median household income: $68,406
Cincinnati, OH

Photo Credit: Agnieszka Gaul / Shutterstock

10. Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN

  • Teens in the labor force: 45.7%
  • Teens enrolled in school: 87.7%
  • Teens not in school and not in the labor force: 4.1%
  • Median household income: $66,435
St. Louis, MO

Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

9. St. Louis, MO-IL

  • Teens in the labor force: 45.9%
  • Teens enrolled in school: 88.5%
  • Teens not in school and not in the labor force: 4.2%
  • Median household income: $65,725
Denver, CO

Photo Credit: Andrew Zarivny / Shutterstock

8. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO

  • Teens in the labor force: 46.3%
  • Teens enrolled in school: 86.7%
  • Teens not in school and not in the labor force: 4.3%
  • Median household income: $83,289
Cleveland, OH

Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

7. Cleveland-Elyria, OH

  • Teens in the labor force: 47.1%
  • Teens enrolled in school: 88.0%
  • Teens not in school and not in the labor force: 4.2%
  • Median household income: $57,263
Louisville, KY

Photo Credit: Harold Stiver / Shutterstock

6. Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN

  • Teens in the labor force: 47.2%
  • Teens enrolled in school: 85.4%
  • Teens not in school and not in the labor force: 4.7%
  • Median household income: $60,891
Milwaukee, WI

Photo Credit: Paul Brady Photography / Shutterstock

5. Milwaukee-Waukesha, WI

  • Teens in the labor force: 47.9%
  • Teens enrolled in school: 89.1%
  • Teens not in school and not in the labor force: 4.4%
  • Median household income: $63,739
Kansas City, MO

Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

4. Kansas City, MO-KS

  • Teens in the labor force: 48.6%
  • Teens enrolled in school: 87.7%
  • Teens not in school and not in the labor force: 3.9%
  • Median household income: $69,240
Minneapolis, MN

Photo Credit: photo.ua / Shutterstock

3. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI

  • Teens in the labor force: 49.8%
  • Teens enrolled in school: 91.2%
  • Teens not in school and not in the labor force: 3.3%
  • Median household income: $82,887
Grand Rapids, MI

Photo Credit: Henryk Sadura / Shutterstock

2. Grand Rapids-Kentwood, MI

  • Teens in the labor force: 50.1%
  • Teens enrolled in school: 87.6%
  • Teens not in school and not in the labor force: 3.8%
  • Median household income: $66,297
Salt Lake City, UT

Photo Credit: photo.ua / Shutterstock

1. Salt Lake City, UT

  • Teens in the labor force: 50.2%
  • Teens enrolled in school: 85.1%
  • Teens not in school and not in the labor force: 5.0%
  • Median household income: $77,102

Detailed Findings & Methodology

The data used in this analysis is from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey. To determine the locations with the most working teens, researchers at Smartest Dollar calculated the percentage of teens in the labor force. In the event of a tie, the location with the greater total number of teens in the labor force was ranked higher. Note, for school enrollment teens were defined as those between age 15 and 19. For labor force participation, teens were defined as those between age 16 and 19. To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 residents were included. Additionally, metros were grouped into cohorts based on population size: small (100,000–349,999), midsize (350,000–999,999), and large (1,000,000 or more).

By clicking the above links, you will go to one of our insurance partners. The specific companies listed above may not be included in our partner’s network at this time.