It’s getting harder for young women to find summer jobs.

The unemployment rate for women aged 16 to 24 rose this summer from 13.8% in April to 16.2% in July—the peak month for summer jobs—as high-school kids and college graduates sought work at restaurants and retailers or entered the job market for the first time in a weak economy, according to data released by the Labor Department Tuesday. By contrast, the unemployment rate for young men only nudged higher, from 17% to 17.9%.

The number of young men actively participating in America’s labor force by working or seeking work increased 16% between April and July compared with 12% for women. That suggests it wasn’t simply a huge glut of additional women in the workforce that pushed female unemployment higher.

The new data provide the latest evidence of how bad the economic rebound has been for women compared with men. Adult men suffered more intensely than women during the recession as industries like manufacturing and construction cratered, yet they’ve also been quicker to find work during the recovery.

With America’s rebound now in its third year, women are starting to get more jobs – and lose fewer – than they did when the recession ended in mid-2009, yet they still trail men, according to a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a Washington think tank.

Still, the latest data paint an encouraging picture of youth employment at a time when the job market seems to be picking up some steam, or at least not getting worse. The U.S. economy added more jobs last month than it has since February and layoffs have eased, though the jobless rate ticked higher in July to 8.3% from 8.2%.

The unemployment rate for America’s youth was 17.1% in July, higher than the 15.4% rate in April and the nation’s general 8.3% rate. But the number of unemployed youth is a little lower than it was last year, at 4 million compared with 4.1 million in July 2011. Also, the number of young workers in jobs rose 2.1 million this summer to 19.5 million, compared with last summer’s 1.7 million gain, and more are actively seeking jobs – a sign of confidence in the job market – though Labor Department economists warned 2012 may not be strictly comparable to other years given new population estimates used in the 2012 data.

A big chunk of America’s youth, about 26%, are finding work in restaurants and other jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector, while around 19% were employed in the retail industry. The Labor Department data come from the government’s Current Population Survey, a national survey of around 60,000 households that underlies the government’s estimate of the unemployment rate.