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Summer jobs elusive for teens
Christian Mason, far left, hops off one of the inflatables at the J.A. Walters Family YMCA Thursday as summer employees Alexis Yearwood, left, and Tori Coker look on. Yearwood and Coker have summer jobs supervising the YMCA Kids Jump Zone. - photo by Tom Reed

Yards may be a little overgrown and groceries may take a little longer to find their way into bags this summer as many teens search for seasonal employment.

According to a study by Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies, about 5.1 million, or just 29.6 percent, of 16-to-19 year olds were employed last summer nationally, the lowest since World War II.

That number was at its peak in 1978 with nearly 60 percent of teenagers having summer employment. From then, the number hovered around 50 percent until 2001.

Georgia’s unemployment rate, as a whole, has remained unchanged from April to May, hovering at 8.9 percent, according to the Georgia Department of Labor. A year ago, the jobless rate was 9.8 percent, but 34,000 new jobs have been added since then.

“The job market is still a tight job market,” said Sam Hall, spokesman for the labor department. “We’re still pulling out of the recession. Some of the jobs that in normal times might go to teenagers could very likely have some adults competing for those jobs that have been out of work for a long time and would be glad to have a job for the summer.”

But the state’s unemployment rate for teens, ages 16 to 19, has shrunk since 2010.

According to the department, about 29 percent of the state’s teen labor force was unemployed last year. That number is down from 36.3 percent in 2010.

That rise in employment, however, does not necessarily translate into summer positions for local teens.

“As employers are beginning to hire, they’re doing so at a steady rate, not a fast rate,” said Hall. “Most employers are probably going to hire the staff they feel like they need to have to get the job done, so they’re going to be cautious on how many people they hire.”

The J.A. Walters Family YMCA traditionally hires teenagers to fill seasonal positions.

“The Y has always hired summer positions because we always have summer camps and we always need extra lifeguards for our swimming pools,” said Leanne Masten, executive director.

But this year, she said the amount of applications, and who is applying, have been different.

Masten “conservatively” estimates the Y had more than 100 applications for summer employment.

She hired about 12 positions.

“So many people are looking for jobs,” she said. “I guess since employment has been so hard to find for adults, I can imagine it being harder for a teen that doesn’t have any experience.”

Some of those applicants were college graduates and adults.

Austin Yearwood, 16, was one of the lucky ones to get a lifeguard position.

He applied to many jobs, including grocery stores, but was hoping to be a lifeguard at the Y.

“I just applied to a bunch of different places, like Ingles and Fred’s and places like that,” said Yearwood.
But the teenager says some of his peers are still without summer work.

“My friends (and I) went before school was out and already had something lined up,” said Yearwood. “And people that waited until school was out are behind and are having a hard time.”

Traditionally, teens are likely to fill retail, restaurant and leisure positions over the summer.

But in Georgia, those types of positions have decreased.

According to the labor department, in April of 2008 there were 866,900 retail, leisure and hospitality positions.

In April of 2011 there were 828,300.

“I think any businesses, small businesses or otherwise, are being very careful about any kind of extra help,” said Kit Dunlap, Greater Hall County Chamber of Commerce president. “They may be doing it themselves or something else. There’s still a fairly tight situation even though I think things are improving.”

Hall said it’s likely too late for teens to start looking for summer employment, but there are numerous resources to search, including the Georgia Department of Labor and the local chamber of commerce.

Dunlap says in this job market, teens have to try just about any avenue to gain employment.

“Knock on few doors and deliver some (resumes),” said Dunlap. “You’re going to have to try everything. You can’t wait back and just read the want ads. I think you have to be proactive.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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