Your recreation is someone else's job.

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

The Summer Job Isn't Dead

Justin Fox is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the editorial director of Harvard Business Review and wrote for Time, Fortune and American Banker. He is the author of “The Myth of the Rational Market.”
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Exciting news from Thursday's employment report: The amusement, gambling and recreation sector added 190,100 jobs in June!

Thing is, these industries always add lots of employees in the summer months. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that, adjusted for seasonal factors, they actually shed an estimated 100 jobs in June. Still, with the summer holidays beckoning, it seemed I ought to take my monthly employment-data dive into this particular pool. It's one that, over time, has grown a lot:

Where is this growth coming from? Here's the breakdown for most of the subcategories that make up this sector. I left out marinas (because not many people work there), ski areas (because that's so totally not a summer thing), and "all other amusement and recreation industries" (because that's boring). Also, I used the unadjusted numbers because the seasonal variations are such a big part of the story. Besides, they make the chart look cool:

Gambling employment does not include people working at casino hotels, who fall under the accommodation category. Still, it's interesting to see that, as legalized gambling spread rapidly beyond Nevada and Atlantic City since the 1990s, gambling establishments haven't been creating new jobs. Employment at golf courses and country clubs was booming until about a decade ago, and has been mostly flat since -- which fits with recent reports that the country has fallen out of love with golf. And, yes, bowling.

Jobs at these places don't pay well. Average weekly earnings (minus tips) in amusements, gambling and recreation were just $377.65 in May, compared with $855.53 for the nonfarm private sector as a whole. What such establishments do offer are crucial opportunities for younger workers.

The percentage of 16- to 24-year-olds with summer jobs has been in a long decline, a development often decried as robbing young people of essential skills and experience. Since the last recession, though, there's been a significant rebound.

At this point it's too early to tell whether this is the beginning of a new and heartening trend or just a cyclical rebound. To end things on an optimistic note, though, here is that most seasonal and youth-friendly of industries, what the BLS calls recreational and vacation camps. They fall under accommodation, not amusement, and constitute too narrow a category for the BLS to provide an age breakdown. But they do appear to be on the rise, and not just because it's summer again.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

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Justin Fox at

To contact the editor on this story:
Paula Dwyer at