The poor economy certainly isn't helping teen employment, but teens have had trouble finding jobs for the last decade.

The proportion of 16- to 19-year-olds working during the summer has been sliding since 2000, according to a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics called "The early 2000s: a period of declining teen summer employment rates."

The report by economist Teresa Morisi cites a variety of reasons for the trend: more teens are enrolling in summer school, more are taking internships, and there is now more of an emphasis on community service.

The 2000s were the "lost decade" for teen employment, said Joe McLaughlin, senior research associate with the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.

"Teens tend to be one of the first groups to be pushed out during a recession," he said. "Teens face a lot more competition now."

As teen employment has fallen, participation in internships has jumped, said Reena Nadler, program director at LifeCourse Associates, a Great Falls generational consulting firm.

"Young people are planning more in the long term," she said.

If a family can afford to have their children enroll in math camp, for example, they see it as more worthwhile than taking a job flipping burgers, she said.

But those still looking for work could be out of luck, according to John Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

"With data now suggesting that consumers are pulling back on spending, it is unlikely that a late-stage hiring surge will salvage the dismal summer job situation for the nation's youngest workers," he said.