August 20, 2004 -- While businesses have been reluctant to take on new full-time help, summer jobs for students have been easier to come by than last year, according to a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Between April and July, the typical period when students go looking for summer jobs and graduates enter the workforce, the number of employed 16 to 24 year olds grew by 2.3 million in 2004, better than last years increase of 2.1 million. The new hires raised the number of working youth to 21.4 million.

The youth labor force, or those working or actively looking for work, grew by 2.9 million this summer, bringing the total to 24.5 million by the end of July. Unemployment, the difference between the labor force and those actually employed, rose by 631,000 over the summer, about the same as last year, according to the BLS.

The labor force participation rate for youth, or the proportion of the total youth population working or looking for work, was 67.3 percent in July, flat from July 2003, which represented the lowest rates for July since 1966. The BLS attributed the low participation rates to the fact that the proportion of youths enrolled in school during July has grow significantly over the last decade alone, from 16.3 percent in 1994 to 28.9 percent in 2004. Student participation in the workforce is generally lower than non-student.

Labor force participation by young men was slightly more than 70 percent, little changed from 2003. Participation by young women, however, slipped to 63.9 percent, the lowest rate since 1975.