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Job market gets even tighter for teenagers
Younger workers are often last to be hired

By Stephanie Armour
USA TODAY 

The summer-hiring outlook for teenagers is grim, coming on the heels of 2004, which was one of the worst for teen employment in more than 50 years.

Going into this summer, the teen unemployment rate in May was hovering near 18%. Last August, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for teen workers ages 16 to 19 was 17%, up from 13.3% in August 1999.

Employers have been moving away from hiring teens for several reasons:

• Competition. Teens are losing out to immigrant workers and college graduates for entry-level or minimum-wage jobs.
“This summer will be basically the same as last year,” says Andrew Sum, a Northeastern University economist, calling the outlook “pessimistic.” He says, “Teenagers are the last in line to be hired.” He says growth in retail and leisure and hospitality has been slow, creating fewer opportunities for work.

• Discouragement. More teens may be deciding not to look for work because of reports the job market is so tough. “They think no one will hire them,” says Renee Ward, founder of Teens4Hire.org, an online career website.

At Team-One Staffing Services in Los Angeles, about 380 teenagers, roughly ages 16 to 19, are registered as available for temporary positions, a 9% decrease from the same time last year.

•The economy. As the economy expands and creates new jobs, teenagers are often the last demographic group to see hiring pick up.

“I've been putting in applications everywhere, and I'm not getting any calls,” says Alex Wyse, 18, in Beachwood, Ohio, who is looking for additional work to supplement a job at a drama camp. “All my friends are having difficulty finding a job.”

Some industries that are hiring teens for the summer include vacation and tourism spots, state- and county-run government youth programs, airport concessions, child and elder care, construction, movie theaters and fast food.

The bad news for teens is good for companies who rely on teen labor. They're finding it easier to fill jobs and find qualified candidates.

Walt Disney World, the Orlando theme park that is in the midst of hiring about 2,000 seasonal workers, says it's pleased with the quality of applicants. The number of seasonal hires this year is about the same as last summer, a spokeswoman says.

“We're in the middle of an aggressive campaign to fill hundreds of jobs,” says Kim Prunty at Walt Disney.