Youth Employment Increasing as Employers Fill Job Openings

Jefferson City — The Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations’ Division of Labor Standards (DLS) has identified a concerning increase in the number of complaints related to youth employment. From 2021 to 2022, the number of complaints increased from 19 to 67 – more than a 250% increase.

As employers struggle to fill available jobs with individuals over age 18, they appear to be turning to young workers between the ages of 14 and 18 to fill the gap. The number of work certifications among those ages 14-15 increased by 45% from 2021 to 2022 – from 6,997 to 10,152.

“The Division emphasizes ensuring our youth have a safe working environment,” said Todd Smith, division director. “Fortunately, we haven’t experienced an associated rise in workplace injuries. However, over 2,200 injuries to workers aged 14 to 18 were serious enough that they were required to be reported to our Division of Workers’ Compensation.”

Employing young people comes with additional rules as prescribed in state law. Only specific jobs are acceptable for workers ages 14 and 15, including office/clerical work, retail, maintenance/janitorial services, food service and vehicle cleaning services. In each case, a work certificate or work permit is required.

To obtain a work certificate, the student’s parent/guardian, employer and school official must complete portions of the certificate, then provide a copy to the Division of Labor Standards’ Youth Employment section.

While school is generally in session (Labor Day to June 1), workers ages 14 and 15 may only work between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., no more than 8 hours on non-school days, no more than 3 hours on school days, and no more than 6 days each week.

During the summer, from June 1 to Labor Day, workers ages 14 and 15 may work between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., no more than 8 hours on non-school days, and no more than 6 days each week.  The total amount of work hours allowed in a week may be more restrictive under federal law.

If an employer is not following the rules above, a complaint may be filed with the Division of Labor Standards. To ensure the safety and welfare of our working youth, the Youth Employment Section aggressively pursues those who attempt to violate the state’s child labor laws. Complaints may also be made by calling (573) 751-3403 or by emailing


Communications Staff

Department of Labor and Industrial Relations