Teen unemployment during coronavirus leads to lowest spending in two decades

Teen spending is down 9% year-over-year, according to Piper Jaffray's 'Taking Stock With Teens' report

Teens aren’t spending money on clothes and food like they used to while fewer are working during the pandemic.

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Gen Z teenagers spent $2,150 this year, down 9% year-over-year, according to Piper Jaffray’s “Taking Stock with Teens” report released Tuesday.

Teen spending is down with job scarcity during COVID-19. 

Analysts surveyed 9,800 teens from 48 states, with an average age of 16, between Aug. 19 and Sept. 22. Each had an average household income of $67,500.

Just 33% of teens surveyed said they had a part-time job — which is down 37% from spring 2020 and another 35% compared to fall 2019. What’s more, 23% of teens indicated that COVID-19 impacted their ability to find a job.

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Perhaps as a result, they’re spending less of their disposable income on clothes, food and beauty products. Indeed, cosmetics spending among teenage women was down 20% year-over-year, with skin care down 3%.

Teens spent a little over $500 each for the year on clothing, or around 11% less than last year, according to the survey.

Teens only spent an average of $87 on handbags, a new low, according to the survey.

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More Gen Zers are also buying used items, with 8% of spending going toward secondhand purchases. Just 33% of teens said they shopped at big-box retailers and department stores, a 36% decline from 2019.

This is no surprise, considering stores like J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus and J. Crew all filed for bankruptcy protection during the pandemic.

When teens do shell out money, it’s apparently going to Amazon. The e-commerce giant was reported to be the most widely used retailer among teens, with 54% saying it's their favorite online retailer.

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Among the other findings, Piper Jaffray reported that male teens spent most of their wallet share (21%) on food and 17% on video games and clothing (16%), while teenage women surveyed shelled out the most for clothing (27%) followed by food at 21% and personal care items like makeup (11%).