(NEWS CENTER) — Can you remember your first summer job? Maybe you were in high school or college. Forty years ago, it was not likely to find a teen on summer break who didn't have some kind of part-time gig.

However, times have changed. New statistics from the Department of Labor show you're more likely to find a teen working towards an education than a paycheck this summer. Last year only 43 percent of teens between 16 and 19 had summer jobs nationwide. Compare that to the 72 percent in 1978. In 2024, it's predicted only 26 percent will.

"It's a lot easier to not have a job but I think it's more responsible," said 16-year-old Emma O'Connor. "I want to start paying for my gas and start doing more things for myself."

Despite the majority of her peers, O'Connor felt this summer was the right time to get her first job. She has been working at Gifford's ice cream in Bangor for about a month. She wanted one because both graduation and living on her own are approaching fast. Many of her friends don't have jobs yet, but she said she wanted to be ready for the "real world." She thinks a lot of kids don't work because their parents don't make them get jobs.

"Summer is more of a time where they can go to the beach every day and it's not responsibilities," O'Connor said. "Parents are just paying a lot of the kids' stuff, kids are just able to have summer vacation and do what they want."

According to the Department of Labor, fewer teens are finding summer jobs because of increased competition. Also, it found they are enrolling in more summer school courses.

"A couple of my friends are signed up to do that," O'Connor said. "It just helps you get ahead."

In fact, that is exactly what her coworker Kacey Beckwith did. She didn't get her first job until she was a senior in college. "I didn't really need money, so I didn't really need a job," Beckwith said. "My parents paid for pretty much everything that I needed."

Instead, her focus was on education and filling her summers with resume boosters, like volunteering. Now she works full-time at the University of Maine and picks up hours at Gifford's in the summer. She said the statistics didn't really surprise her.

"I think it just really depends on what you're looking for in your future," Beckwith said. "I really wanted to get into a good college so I focused more on school stuff than job stuff."

So which philosophy is better? Learning the true value of a dollar or hitting the books a little harder? Only time will tell.