08 Jun Teens face uphill battle in summer job search
CHICAGO – The recession, which has already caused payrolls to shrink by more than 5 million jobs, will make it extremely difficult for teenagers to find employment this summer.
Based on recent trends, it’s possible for the first time since 1954 that fewer than 1 million 16- to 19-year-olds will find summer jobs. The impact of this will only add to the economy’s woes as jobless teenagers are less likely to spend money on clothes, music and entertainment.
Employment in 2008 among 16- to 19-year-olds grew by only 1.15 million between May and July, according to non-seasonally adjusted data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That was 29 percent lower than 2007 when 1.64 million teens found jobs during the summer months.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that teen employment is already significantly lower than a year ago. As of March 31, 2009, 4.7 million 16- to 19-year-olds were employed. That’s 11.6 percent fewer than the 5.3 million teens working at the same point in 2008.
The non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate among teens averaged 21.9 percent through the first three months of 2009. That compares to 16.9 percent during the same period a year ago. The figure is expected to increase this summer when teens on summer vacation flood the job market. In general, the job market has become increasingly tight for teenagers.
The types of jobs they typically seek in retail and food service are being eliminated as consumer spending plummets. For the jobs that remain, teens are competing not only with other members of their age group but also with older and more experienced job seekers willing to accept positions for which they are most likely overqualified.
Even one-time teen job havens – such as pool lifeguard and camp counselor – are seeing cutbacks. States and municipalities that were likely to hire summer interns have now cut their budgets in light of falling tax revenue. The competition for the jobs that remain is fierce.
One recent news story reported that the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Ill. – which typically sees about 500 applications for the park district’s 200 summer jobs as concession-stand workers, lifeguards and maintenance assistants – has received 675 so far in 2009.
The number of teens working during the summer has been on the decline for some time. However, the downward trend appeared to be a matter of choice among tech-savvy, career-oriented teens who abandoned flipping burgers and folding shirts. With the recession, more teenagers need jobs out of necessity and are unable to compete against more experienced applicants.
The participation rate among teens has steadily declined in recent years. In June 2000, about 52 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds were working or looking for work. By June 2006 when the economy was still relatively healthy, the teen participation rate had dropped to 44.4 percent.
Rising unemployment among teens is troubling for many reasons. Many retailers depend on teen spending. In the past, teenagers could count on getting spending money from mom and dad when they weren’t able to find a job. However, many parents are reining in these costs as job loss or the fear of job loss contributes to greater budget awareness.
While there are opportunities out there, teens can’t expect the jobs to come to them.
Many young men and women spend a few afternoons making the rounds at area malls to fill out applications, which they then leave with someone at the cash register and wait for the phone to ring. In recent years, some of this activity has become even less personal as it has moved to the Internet. Luckily, social and professional networking sites can certainly assist in a teen’s job search as opportunities can come from anyone and anywhere.
It’s easy to post your job status online and wait to see if anyone in your online network can help. However, it’s important to keep in mind that finding a job requires more effort than a few clicks and key strokes.
Finding a job as a teenager is just like finding a job as an adult. It requires constant attention and depends significantly on the strength of your network. Use your parents, friends and your friends’ parents as sources for job leads. Try to meet with hiring managers face to face as opposed to dropping off a completed application form.
Newspapers – both print and online – are also a good source for job leads. The classified ad section of a newspaper will contain some help-wanted advertisements. Still, don’t forget to read the local and business news sections where you might find stories of new local businesses or ones that are struggling to find workers.
Most important, don’t get frustrated by failure. Many teens give up after applying to 10 or 12 jobs once concluding that “no one is hiring teens this summer”. Chances are good that there are more than 10 or 12 employers in your city or town. As such, it’s necessary to cast a wider net. There are many summer job opportunities outside the confines of the local mall.
Teenagers may also want to consider the large number of volunteer opportunities in their communities. If you can’t get a job earning money, you may as well help others in need while earning some valuable on-the-job experience.
Recent columns by James Challenger
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- James Challenger: Slow hiring of college graduates: non-profits to benefit
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This article previously appeared in MidwestBusiness.com, and was reprinted with its permission.
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