‘If they don’t have a job by now, they’re kind of out of luck’: Summer jobs sparse for teens this year

This summer might be another bummer for high school and college students looking for seasonal employment.
Already local park districts that traditionally hire teens and college students during the summer months have completed their hiring. Collinsville Area Recreation District spokeswoman Elizabeth Davis said hiring began at beginning of the year and wrapped up earlier this spring.

“We’re done hiring,” Davis said. “A lot of our hiring started in January.”

Jordan Woods is happy to have landed one of those jobs at the park district’s water park, Splash City. The 20-year-old was doing some landscaping last week around the parking lot in preparing the water park’s opening May 28. He said he was looking for summer work for three months before he found his job.
“A couple of my friends have not had a job for a couple years,” Woods said. “A lot of people I know are looking for a job.”
Zak Woodward is back for his fifth season at the water park and also works in construction when the work is available. He said it is not easy to find a summer job.
“All I’ve really done is work here,” Woodward said. “I’ve got construction jobs lined up, but it’s just whenever I get it or when they need help.”
“One of my friends can’t get a job at all. If they’ve got a job, it’s because they had it already.”
Aquatics supervisor Stephanie Whittington said 10 more lifeguards were hired this year than last year, but otherwise staffing remains the same.
“We set deadlines,” Whittington said. “We had a lot of referrals from some of our prior lifeguards and other staff members. By the deadline, we hired all of our employees by the end of February.”
In O’Fallon, the O’Fallon Parks and Recreation Department is still looking for a few more lifeguards, but most of its summer hiring is completed. Director Mary Jeanne Hutchison said that out of 261 applicants, 80 have been hired for the season.
“We are basically done hiring,” Hutchison said. “It had started several months ago. We started posting in January to get our rehires completed in March and then in early April started interviewing for any openings.”
This year stands to be one of the worst, especially for those 16- to 19-year-olds still looking for summer employment. According to a new report by Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies in Boston, only one in four U.S. teens will find work this summer. The forecast predicts that the teen employment rate during the summer months will only reach 27 percent –the lowest ever and second-lowest summer employment rate for teens since World War II.
“That’s how much this has fallen,” said center director Andrew Sum. “It’s unbelievable.”
He also said the nation’s teen employment rate during the past decade has been whittled down from 45 percent in 2000 to 25.6 percent in 2010.
“We just didn’t create any jobs during the last decade,” he said. “None.”
He and fellow researchers point to the emergence of workers 55 and older who, over the past decade, have pursued more jobs that had traditionally been held by teens. He also said illegal immigrants have pushed more teens out of the job market.
In Illinois, teen unemployment has been on the rise over recent summers. Figures from the Illinois Department of Employment Security in Chicago reveal that the teen jobless rate was 16.7 percent in 2007. Last summer, teen unemployment across the state climbed to 27.5 percent.
“It’s been building in every age group,” said department spokesman Greg Rivara. “The unemployment rates are unacceptably high everywhere.”
“Given the trends, the difficult part of this is we’ve never been here before,” Rivara said. “We have had economic downturns and had severe recession, but never had a recession that has been this deep or this long. And the conventional wisdom that had been used previously is challenged when we look forward.”
Hutchison said the O’Fallon park district has witnessed about 90 fewer applicants than a year ago, when about 350 applied for work. There are only a very small number of jobs that are still open for this summer.
“If they don’t have a job by now, they’re kind of out of luck,” Hutchison said.

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