Teens have harder time landing a summer job

Expert estimates that just 34 percent of teens will have jobs this summer.

ByABC News
June 16, 2008, 5:51 AM

WILMINGTON, Del. -- Shemi Benge, 18, just graduated from Kennett High School in Kennett Square, Pa., and wants to earn some cash before heading to Tulane University in New Orleans in the fall. The job applications she has dropped off so far have gone nowhere.

"It's hard finding your first job, because people want you to have experience," Benge said.

And in today's economy, there are plenty of people with that experience also looking for work.

Teens nationwide are finding it difficult to nail down a summer job this year. Economists foresee the worst summer job market for teens since 1948, when the government began tracking teenage work, according to research published by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported on June 6 that the nation's unemployment rate in May climbed to 5.5%, up from 5% in April. It was the biggest one-month jump since 1986. And with schools closing and students entering the seasonal workforce, the rate among teens took an even bigger hit: 18.7% in May, vs. 15.4% in April.

As a result of weak consumer spending, businesses are hiring less and, in some cases, cutting jobs altogether.

And with the cost of necessities, such as gas and food, on the rise, many adults are finding that one paycheck isn't enough as they turn to low-skilled hourly jobs to supplement their income.

It is those adults who are creating lots of competition for teens, said Joseph McLaughlin, a research associate at the Northeastern labor studies center.

"Teens are the lowest in the hiring queue because they have less experience and can usually only work limited hours," he said. "They are the hardest hit in a recession. That's why we need strong job growth, so employers have to dig down and hire those 16- and 17-year-olds who have limited job experience."

This summer, 34% of teens nationwide will have a job, he said. More 20- to 24-year-olds are holding onto jobs that traditionally go to teens, and more 50- to 55-year-olds are snatching up jobs to supplement their retirements.