Between four hours of homework each night and cheerleading practice on the weekends, the last thing on Kayla Kass' mind in her senior year at Newport Harbor High was locking down a part-time job.
"I had no time," said Kass, 18. "I was already stressed about getting homework done, and (with cheerleading), a lot of people relied on me. It would've been too much pressure."
Kass is among a growing number of young people who aren't cashiering or busing tables during high school, even during summer breaks. They're getting their first taste of work life later in life. Teens such as Kass chalk that up to increasing academic demands, such as performing well on standardized tests, and the need to beef up academic resumes to get into dream schools.
Others attribute the later start to a lingering effect of the Great Recession: a job market in which high school students continue to compete with college graduates. It's not just perception. Economic figures paint a bleak picture of youth employment today.
The teenage unemployment rate in the country's 100 largest metro areas almost doubled between 2000 and 2011, rising from 13 percent to 25 percent, according to a study released by the Brookings Institution this spring.
That unemployment rate has since fallen to 19 percent, numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show.
"We're seeing 21-year-olds who have never had a job and maybe older than that," said Kathy Du Vernet, executive director of Youth Employment Service of the Harbor Area.
Sometimes parents have a lot to do with delayed employment.
Vivian Pham, who turned 20 earlier this month, was influenced by the experiences of her mother, who waited tables while attending high school.
"She said it was really hard to juggle both at the same time," said Pham, who is now a part-timer at Yogurtland in Huntington Beach, Calif., and a sophomore at Golden West College.
The later-employment trend could have wide implications for not just affected youth but also society as a whole, Du Vernet said.