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Summer Jobs Dry Up and Teens Face Highest Unemployment in Decades

Young Americans are having little luck finding summer jobs.

Coronavirus outbreaks throughout the country have dried up many of the traditional opportunities that high school and college-age students rely on each summer. Junior workers seeking seasonal employment are striking out so much that the April unemployment rate for teens aged 16 to 19 hit 32%, marking a high not seen since at least 1948, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As more teens hit the job market in June and July, when school is generally out, that rate typically climbs higher.

Teen unemployment had been steadily falling since the aftermath of the 2008 recession. Summer jobs had been rising in popularity, reflecting a healthy labor market. The pandemic swiftly put that trend in reverse. More than two million retail jobs disappeared in April as thousands of stores closed. Restaurant owners are grappling with how many people to hire back as states lift lockdown measures around the U.S. Social distancing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also curbed many summer activities that provided positions to younger workers as swimming pool lifeguards and golf-course caddies.

Without a chance to earn money over the summer, young workers are missing out on thousands of dollars of extra income that could be used to help their families or put toward expenses such as tuition payments.

Chuck Montrie runs Bethesda Aquatics, which operates several neighborhood swimming pools in Bethesda, Md. In a typical summer, he employs between 60 and 70 lifeguards and swim coaches between the ages of 15 and 22. This year, he has made many offers but doesn’t know when he will be able to put people to work. Normally, Mr. Montrie’s summer hires would be getting the pools in shape for Memorial Day crowds, but the state’s pools remain closed until further notice.

“At this point, it’s a big unknown if we will pay our lifeguards or not, ” he said. “Our guess is mid- to late June, but that’s just based on hope.”

Mr. Montrie also said he has had more students than usual who worked for him in the past come back this season and ask for jobs; many told him their summer internships were rescinded.

Matt Kaye, 22, is graduating from University of California, Los Angeles, next month and was recently furloughed from a clerical job at the school’s student union. He was hoping to work through September, giving him the summer to look for a full-time job opportunity in finance.

Mr. Kaye said he may start looking for other part-time work in July if he can’t find a full-time job by then. “It’s definitely been a huge blow to my confidence,” he said.

David Benowitz, chief operating officer of restaurant operator Craft and Crew Hospitality Inc. based in Wayzata, Minn., said it hires about seven to 15 employees for the summer at each of his company’s five locations. Mr. Benowitz said he has recently hired back some furloughed workers as Minnesota moves to relax some of its restrictions on bars and restaurants next month.

Rather than cutting back on summer hires, Mr. Benowitz said he plans to hire a few extra workers at each location to ramp up delivery capability. But students and younger workers will face a lot of competition for those jobs.

“We have a lot of people to choose from now. It was challenging to be picky before this. That’s turned 180 degrees now,” he said. “We can bring on A players at every position.”

Riverside Golf Club in Riverside, Ill., normally hires nearly 140 teenaged caddies with roughly 70 working on any given day, said Joe Green, the club’s caddie master. Courses are open but local laws don’t permit caddies to work this summer.

Mr. Green said many of his summer caddies can make between $5,000 and $6,000.

“I don’t see how we’re going to bring them back safe this year,” he said. “To me, it’s the best job these kids can have. It teaches discipline, social skills, networking. It’s a great learning experience.”

While traditional temporary jobs for young workers are in short supply this summer, teens could find work in warehouses and distribution centers, said Traci Fiatte, head of nontechnical staffing at recruiting firm Randstad N.V.’s U.S. division. She said students looking for summer work should be flexible and willing to take roles other unemployed people may not want.

“Be willing to take work that a mother of two can’t take,” she said. “Be flexible with overnight shifts, or doing delivery at the restaurant you used to work at.”
Source: Dow Jones

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