Mixed views on teen summer employment
by By Mark Andrews
Jun 13, 2012 | 1357 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By Mark Andrews

mark.andrews@daily-tribune.com

When performer Eddie Cochran sang about "Summertime Blues" in the late 1950s, he made light-hearted references to young people trying to make ends meet and put money in their pockets during the summer. Since the economic downturn of 2008, however, many teens have had to step in to help contribute to family finances, and like many parents, have had trouble finding work.

"There seems to be a push for some federally-funded teen employment programs," said Gail Fowler, manager for the Cartersville Department of Labor Career Center.

These include the Department of Human Services summer TeenWork program, the Summer Jobs+ Jobs Bank and a number of websites with information for internships and strategies on finding an entry-level job. Visit http://www.dol.state.ga.us/spotlight/sp_summer_youth_resources.htm for a full listing of the programs and resources.

Fowler said the center works closely with local schools to advise teens of employment opportunities.

"This past year we have conducted seminars at the schools to assist students with job search, how to look for work, how to dress for an interview, how to be prepared for an interview and of course we gave them all the literature on how to do a resume and a cover letter, completing the application -- all the information they need to know how to apply for a job and how to present themselves," Fowler said.

She said another area the seminars address are identifying a young person's skills, even if they haven't held their first job.

"Most of them haven't worked, but they have held positions or had assignments while in school, like the activities, clubs and sports they're involved at school, so we help them to identify skills they don't even know they have," Fowler said.

While most communities offer similar resources through a career center, The Associated Press reports that many teens are not looking for work.

"Interestingly, whether it is the frustration of finding employment or an increased desire to focus on academics, volunteering, sports, or other activities, but an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data reveals that more and more teenagers are opting out of the labor force entirely and have no desire to seek employment," The Associated Press reported, referencing labor numbers from the firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

In 2011, the number of 16- to 19-year-olds not participating in the labor force -- meaning they were neither employed nor actively seeking employment -- averaged 11,048,000. Of that total, only 1,102,000 said they wanted a job. About 90 percent (9,946,000) of the teens not in the labor force indicated that they did not want a job.

While the report shows less teens are seeking employment, more entities are hiring teens.

The number of 16- to 19-year-olds hired in May totaled 157,000. That was more than double the 71,000 jobs won by teens a year earlier. The firm forecasted 2012 will show continuing improvement for teens in the job market over 2011. Last year, employment among teens grew by 1,087,000, a 13 percent increase.

May was the first month of the teen summer hiring season, which ends in July. The solid hiring numbers for teens last month represented a dramatic increase from the paltry 6,000 teens hired in May 2010.

The Associated Press reported U.S. Department of Labor statistics stating, "Overall, more than 44 percent of teens who want summer jobs don't get them or work fewer hours than they prefer."

Economists say teens who aren't getting jobs are often those who could use them the most. Many are not moving on to more education.

"I have big concerns about this generation of young people," said Harry Holzer, labor economist and public policy professor at Georgetown University, in The Associated Press study. He said the income gap between rich and poor is exacerbated when lower-income youths, who are less likely to enroll in college, are unable to get skills and training.

"For young high school graduates or dropouts, their early work experience is more closely tied to their success in the labor market," he said.

By race and income, blacks, Hispanics and teens in lower-income families were least likely to be employed in summer jobs, according to DOL statistics. The figure was 14 percent for African-American teens when their family income was less than $40,000 a year, compared to 44 percent of white teens with family income of $100,000 to $150,000. Hispanics in families making less than $40,000 also faced difficulties (19 percent employed), while middle-class black teens with family income of $75,000 to $100,000 did moderately better, at 28 percent employed.

Fowler said she has not seen much of a difference in teens seeking employment compared to years past.

"There are so many people competing for the same job, of course due to the economy, but we haven't seen a decrease or an increase in our teens seeking work, it has maintained pretty much the way it has over the past several years, so even with the economy worse, the number seems to be stable in our area," Fowler said, adding the center serves Bartow as well as Paulding counties.

While many teens find work through family, at grocery stores, restaurants and find odd jobs, the largest employer of teens is in the public sector. Bartow County Parks and Recreation Department Director Greg Anderson said the department employs about 50 to 60 teens each summer.

"We have somewhere around 36 lifeguards and the majority of those are our teenagers," Anderson said, adding lifeguards have to undergo training. "We also have part-time work as score keepers during the summer.

"We have to watch out for child labor laws, but they're more relaxed so we can have [teens] out later."

He said the department has seen an increase in teens seeking employment.

"I can tell you that over the last couple of years, I think that we chose about 18 to 20 [teen] lifeguards out of a pool of about 60 applicants," Anderson said.

For more information on teen employment, contact the career center at 770-387-3760.