Jun 1, 2009
Economic downturn makes finding summer jobs tough for teensBy Dana HullMercuryNews.com

It’s a tough time to find a job.

Now imagine trying to land one if your only “work experience” is household chores or baby-sitting.

“I applied to like 20 places, and the only thing I got was a job at Hollister for four hours a week,” said Vanessa Royle, 17, a senior at Presentation High School in San Jose. “I went into Jamba Juice and it was all adults.”

As of April, the national unemployment rate is 8.9 percent. But for teenagers ages 16-19 — who are actively, but unsuccessfully looking for work — it’s 20.9 percent, more than twice the national average and the highest in a decade, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The “youth labor force” rises sharply in late spring and early summer, as large numbers of high school and college students take summer jobs and newly minted graduates enter the labor market.

But economists note that in a downturn, young workers are often the first to lose their jobs — or not get hired in the first place.

“The parts of the economy that have been hit the hardest — retail, hospitality, food establishments — usually provided a lot of jobs for young people,” said Amar Mann, an economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics in San Francisco. “And young people are having to compete against older, more experienced workers who are pursuing the same jobs.”

Additionally, Silicon Valley teenagers say baby-sitting, which typically pays about $10 an hour, is drying up as economizing parents cut back on date nights. And as teenagers have found on job hunting jaunts to Santana Row and the Oakridge, Eastridge and Valley Fair malls, popular chain stores are either not hiring or already filled their few slots.

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