Teens Struggling to Find Elusive Part-Time Jobs

Teens unemploymentBy STEPHANIE REITZ, Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn -- The economic turmoil that has left many Americans without work is having a disproportionate effect on teenage job-seekers, whose quest for entry-level positions often pits them against experienced older workers willing to take any job for a paycheck.

U.S. labor figures show the 2011 unemployment rate nationwide averaged just below 9%, but for job-seekers ages 16 to 19, it was almost 25% -- the third consecutive year in that range, and with some cities recording rates far higher.

Automation has also eliminated many of the after-school, weekend and summer jobs that had been the longtime domain of first-time workers as computerized equipment has helped companies trim positions in everything from local car washes to photocopy shops and supermarkets.

Participants discussing the trend at a forum Tuesday in Hartford say that it's alarming, and that society suffers when an entire generation's chance to learn valuable workplace skills are delayed or denied. On a personal level, it's also a source of growing stress for teenagers who need jobs for experience, pocket money or to help their families.

"My mom doesn't have a lot of money and what she does have, she spends on me and on my brother, so I really want to work and be able to help and take care of some things myself," said Trisana Spence, 16, who moved last year from New York City's Brooklyn borough to Hartford and hopes someday to become a lawyer.

Spence, a junior at the Hartford Culinary Arts Academy high school, might end up with a slight advantage.

She's in a paid internship through her school and the city's Blue Hills Civic Association to learn job skills and will be placed at a yet-undetermined job this summer. She says she'll work extra hard in hopes that the employer will keep her on board even after the summer so she can help pay for household expenses and some extras, such as her 4-year-old brother's karate lessons.

Participants at Tuesday's forum said that partnerships between government and civic groups, businesses, nonprofit agencies and other organizations may be a key factor to helping job-seeking teens, but that those groups face financial hurdles to keep internships and job-training programs going, too.

The White House and Department of Labor this month kicked off a campaign appealing to the private sector to create 250,000 more summer jobs in businesses, nonprofits and government agencies, with at least 100,000 of them being paid spots.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who attended Tuesday's forum, said that initiative and others are critical to ensure teens get a chance to learn job skills and prepare for careers.

"The phenomenon of youth unemployment is sweeping the world, not just Connecticut," said Blumenthal, who credits his first job as a camp counselor with introducing him to mentors and the sense of pride and responsibility that work can instill.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2011 nationwide unemployment rate of 24.4% for teen job-seekers from 16 to 19 years old was the second highest recorded since it started keeping the statistic in the late 1940s. The figures reflect teens actively seeking jobs and do not include those not applying for positions.

The 2010 figure was the highest at 25.9%, though it approached 20% in the mid-1970s and nudged slightly over that level in 1982 and 1983.

In recent decades, teens had the best luck getting jobs in the boom years around the turn of the millennium, when their unemployment rate was around 13% -- and those workers, a large part of today's adult workforce, have a track record of experience that often puts them ahead of today's teens in the job hunt.

Nationwide and in cities like Hartford, there's heavy competition for each available job.

Federal labor statistics show there's an average of 4.2 people out of work for each job that's open nationwide depending on industries and regions.

It's no longer enough for teens to be willing to work for entry-level wages, since many displaced experienced workers are also willing to take lower pay for a chance at a regular income, some experts said Tuesday.

Nineteen-year-old Calvin Brown of Bristol sees that first hand. When he was in high school, he felt fortunate to be able to get a few hours of work each week at a local convenience store -- "Just about enough to pay for gas," said Brown, now an unpaid intern for U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-Conn.

The experience is worth the financial trade-off for Brown, a political science major at Central Connecticut State University, but he said he still sees many of his friends struggle to find jobs.

"A lot of time, it ends up being through connections: 'Oh, I'm cleaning floors at my father's shop,' or something like that," Brown said. "But a lot of time, even in the most entry-level jobs, you're competing against someone with a lot of experience."

John Twomey, chief executive officer of the New York Association of Training and Employment Professionals Inc., said the teens' observations are borne out in unemployment figures that show a wide gap between teens seeking jobs and those actually finding them.

"They're not all in basketball camp or backpacking in Europe," he said, jokingly, of those without jobs. "Kids want to work. We're in danger of graduating a whole generation of kids who don't know how to work."

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self centerd teens are not use ful in production. At min wage they are liabilities. Why spend more on unproducers than they bring in? Profit drives business not expensive money losing apprenticeships.

January 17 2012 at 12:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

They had better make the MOST of their first time to vote and get ole barry and his lib dems OUT of office or things will get even WORSE! Ole barry and his MORONS at EPA can't wait to tighten their Stanglehold on the country with even MORE IDIOTIC REGS that got us in this MESS in the first place!!

January 15 2012 at 7:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"WEALTH" and so call American " POVERTY" are like Heat and Cold. Cold is the ABSENCE of heat. Poverty is the absence of wealth. This means like Heat can not make anything cold wealth can NOT make any one poor! Poverty is the lack of input of wealth buy the individual. Life is not fair and can be very hard, get over it. Free market wealth is fair. Wealth goes to those that produce for others directly or indirectly through labor to producers. Non producers ( able bodied) do not deserve wealth. That's as fair as it gets. Quit wining and get a job, or make one. And no you aren't owed a job so start kissing as s and be thankful to those that invite you to share in their production. Got gold?

January 15 2012 at 2:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Its competitive world suk it up! Got gold?

January 15 2012 at 2:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Nowhere is any mention made of jobs in fast food establishments. Years ago, many teens had jobs at places like McDonald's, Burger King, KFC (then called Kentucky Fried Chicken), etc. Now all the employees in these places are foreigners (dare I say "illegals")? Often I cannot even understand them when trying to order. What happened to these places of work for teenagers? At least that is the case here in Southern California. Most of these jobs have been taken over by the influx of people from outside our borders. When last were you served by a native born person when you went to get fast food? Why are politicians not speaking out about this?

January 11 2012 at 3:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to leawo's comment

It's exactly the same here in Eastern Washington St. Politicians do not want to speak of this because they do not want to lose the spanish vote or be labeled as racist which would ruin there career.

January 11 2012 at 4:48 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Why don't they start their own business?

January 11 2012 at 3:51 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

Too many adults who are trying to support themselves and families can't even get "entry" level work. Companies know they can survive with minimal staff and have a long line of replacements should someone not be able to do the laundry list of resposibilities they attach to each job these days. Factor in the Under-employed when looking at job numbers for a reality check.

January 11 2012 at 2:45 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

The kids need to get retrained so they can find work. All the other jobs were taken by new immigrants because the kids did not have to worry because the parents subsidized them for years. Now the parents are broke or out of work and no more handouts. It is the older people who will never work again. NO ONE hires old men ! and no one wants them!!

January 11 2012 at 12:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

We should not be worried about teens getting their burger job, how about the 16 million adults needing jobs. What a pityful report. But with O's giving freely of money since taking office and everything must be alright, unemployment isn't going above 8 % and he is in Hawaii and vacation more than any before him, everything is fine so lets give 4 more years, everything is fine......but wait....as his spiritual advisor said before the last election, he has to say what he has to say to get elected, meaning he l..s

January 11 2012 at 12:01 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

How's that Hope and Change coming' for ya ?????

January 11 2012 at 11:17 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to marine1942's comment

If your an illegal immigrant that hope and change is alive and well!

January 11 2012 at 4:50 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply