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ThreeSixty Journalism: Teen job market looking grim


As summer approaches, the teen job market is one of the worst on record and teens are not having an easy time finding employment.

“Last year, the teen employment rate for the summer months was one of the worst for teens on record: 32.8 percent of teens were employed last summer, compared to 45 percent in 2000. That’s 2 million less teens. Unfortunately, this summer’s teen employment rate is projected to be even worse than last year’s,” said Joe McLaughlin, a senior research associate at the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston, which studies the teen job market.

Cassie Villari, 18, a senior at Park High School, said she needs a job to save up for college, earn gas money and spending money. “There are no openings, I have been searching for months, applying to over 60 places,” she said.

Villari said that she would like a job at a restaurant or retail store. But according to McLaughlin, those are the jobs that are toughest to land.

Why it’s tough to find work
“Usually, during summer months, restaurants, retail stores, and parks need to hire more for seasonal demands. But this year, with demand being cut down, stores and restaurants closing, and sales being down, they do not want to hire a lot of new workers. Teens are the most adversely affected in this situation,” McLaughlin said.

Teenagers are now also competing with adults for jobs as more are laid off. “I heard from my friends that some places are less likely to hire because of the economic situation, and how more qualified people are getting the jobs teenagers usually want or can get,” said Emmy Li, a sophomore at Mounds View High School.

“Jobs that would have been open under a normal cycle in June will have been filled earlier in the year by adults who are keeping them through the summer and into the fall if they can, which creates a problem for teens,” said Amy Lindgren, president and founder of Prototype Career Service in St. Paul.

McLaughlin said new college graduates are holding onto their teenage jobs because of the difficulty of finding employment in their majors. “Employers see them as people that have more experience, making them overall better job applicants,” he said.

With the range of opportunities for teens so narrow, many are willing to widen their preferences. “I would accept any job I could get right now,” said Holly Corporaal, 16, a sophomore at Park High School. Villari said the same.

“There are moments when I am willing to go find any job because I am desperate for money. It is nice to have my own money. I feel free,” said Ericka Vang, 17, a senior at Park High School.

What teen job-seekers should do
Fortunately, experts have some helpful tips for teen job-seekers. “My first piece of advice would be to start early,” McLaughlin said. “A lot of kids wait until June, which is way too late, because employers hire in April or May. Also, use your network of family, relatives, and friends to help you find a job. If your friend is working at a restaurant, try to get him to help you land a job there.”

Lindgren said certain sites on the Internet are better than others for help with finding job openings.

“ is a good place to search because businesses can post their job openings for free. However, with many other sites, such as CareerBuilder and Monster, employers must pay to advertise their jobs, so they are not likely to spend money advertising part-time jobs,” Lindgren said. “Also, I warn against using Craiglist as a teen because a lot of things tend to fall through.”

There are also other options out there for people who can’t find a good job. Lindgren said whenever it’s a difficult job market, teens should consider running their own small businesses, like walking dogs, tending gardens and babysitting. She also said volunteering is a good idea.

“They may even be able to create enough of a connection so the place they volunteer at could hire them as a worker next year. It’s a good idea to always have a plan B,” she said. “If you are looking for a job and don’t have one by mid-July, I think it is time to switch gears.”

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