Teens have a slightly better chance of getting a job this summer than the past few years, but employment is still scarce for the age group with the highest unemployment rate.
“I think there are more prospects out there for kids,” said Corey McCaster, youth service director for Workforce Alliance, the state-chartered job placement and training agency.
After three years of historically low employment for workers ages 16 to 19, many teens aren’t even looking.
Today’s 16-year-old job-seeker was 10 when the recession started. In 2005, teen employment was 34 percent in the United States.
But during the recovery, college-age workers have had difficulty finding entry-level jobs, and so many returned to the yard mowing, mall-clerking and ice-cream-scooping jobs of their teen years. That pushed out the next generation of teens, and dropped their employment rate to 20 percent and lower for the past three years.
Dianne Namur, 17, just got her first job ever working at Palm Beach Skate Zone.
“I’m really excited to gain some experience,” she said.
The Forest Hill High junior said her job search was easier than she expected, and her friends have summer jobs, too.
Of the 26 people on staff at Palm Beach Skate Zone, 14 are under 20, said Cristina Wadhwa, who is in charge of hiring summer workers. She makes a point to hire teenagers at the sports-entertainment venue in suburban Lake Worth and is working with Workforce Alliance to locate them.
“I like giving teenagers their first start, their first job, because I remember how hard it was for me,” she said. Now she’s a lawyer and a human-resources specialist.
Still, summer jobs are not readily available.
Florida has one of the lowest summer employment rates in the nation for teens, sitting just behind Arizona, Louisiana and Georgia, according to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University. Only slightly more than a fifth of young people ages 16 to 19 work year-round or during the summer, Labor Department statistics show.
An exception is Jamie Clark, 19, who recently moved back to Greenacres from Tallahassee, where she earned an associate’s degree. She has two jobs: washing dogs at her father’s Wellington pet store and serving at Smokey Bones.
“I support myself, so I have to work as much as I can,” she said.
Teen workers continue to compete against college graduates and seniors for summer jobs, and many will spend the summer on the couch rather than collecting a paycheck.
“All the college kids are home,” said Nykena Jackson of Wellington, “so they’re pretty much going back to where they worked before.”
Jackson, 21, said she works steadily, but it’s hard competing for jobs right now. She wants something permanent but is still putting in applications for mall retail work just in case.
Summer employment outlooks are mixed for young people.
Outsourcing consultant Challenger, Gray & Christmas predicts a sizable boost for teen employment.
“Continued employment gains across the economy, but particularly in lower-skilled, lower-paying hourly wage categories, are expected to benefit teenagers seeking jobs this summer,” CEO John A. Challenger said in a news release.
But Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Students at Northeastern University, forecasts less than a 1 percent increase in the employment rate this summer. His predictions are historically fairly accurate, although conservative.
“This will still leave the teen employment rate close to the all time lows of the past few years,” he said.
Getting started early on the job search and having good people skills are two ways for teens to improve their chances.
Workforce Alliance works directly with employers who hire interns, and that program will employ more than 100 teens this summer, McCaster said.
“I should have applied earlier,” Carli Fischer said last week. Teens she sees with jobs made their contacts over spring break and already started work.
The 16-year-old Wellington High junior hoped for a hostessing job, but she’ll probably make most of her pocket money baby-sitting.
Her friend Molly Triggs, 17, did start looking during spring break. And she’s hoping to hear from her dream job: working a summer camp at The Breakers. She’s worked in the past volunteering for summer camps.
“It’s tough,” Triggs said, “because I haven’t had a serious job before.”
Unemployment rates in 2012 (%)
All ages 8.4 8.1
16-19 23.5 24.0
20-24 14.3 13.3
25-34 8.5 8.3
35-44 6.9 6.6
45-54 7.1 6.2
55-64 6.8 5.9
65+ 7.8 6.2
Source: Labor Department, Bureau of Labor Statistics
Florida unemployment ages 16-19
States with lowest teen summer employment*
* Percent of the population age 16-19 that is employed
Source: Center for Labor Market Studies , average of 2011-2012 summer rates