A hot summer labor market awaits American teens when employers sweat

WASHINGTON (AP) – Mary Jane Reeve, CEO of Pizza Factory, this summer has a warning message to her customers: …

WASHINGTON (AP) – Mary Jane Riva, CEO of Pizza Factory, has a warning to her customers this summer: get ready to wait longer for your Hawaiian pie or calzone.

The 100 places on the West Coast Pizza Factory are desperately short of jobs. There are about 12 employees in the store, they are almost half staffed – just when many more Americans dare to chain restaurants like hers.

“Days of 15-minute orders,” Riva said, “may not happen again.”

Talk to other employers in America’s huge hospitality sector – hotels, restaurants, public swimming pools, ice cream parlors, choose your own strawberry farms – and you’ll hear similar regrets. They cannot create many of their summer jobs because the number of vacancies is much higher than the number of those who want and can fill them – even with higher wages.

Maybe some help will come: the school is closed for the summer, and millions of high school and college students are released for the next three months. Riva, for example, hopes to apply for more jobs from students looking for summer money.

Teenagers are in an unusual team position – at least those who want to work. Researchers from the Center for Labor and Policy at the University of Drexel predicted in a report last month that an average of 33% of young people aged 16 to 19 will work each month from June to August this year, which is the highest figure with 34% in summer . 2007.

Among them is Samuel Castillo, a 19-year-old four-year veteran of the Summer Jobs Connect program in Miami who has already created an impressive resume. In one of the previous positions in the program, he worked in the legislature, registered constituent complaints. In the first summer, he saved $ 900 to buy parts to build his own computer.

He is now studying computer technology in college and is back in the Jobs Connect program this summer, earning $ 15 an hour, teaching other students how to manage money.

“The goal of the job is to pay my bills,” he said. “School is worth the money. Books are worth the money.

Similarly, Lara Bekius, a student at Connecticut College, said she has gone from stressful because of finding a summer job to stressful choosing among the many offerings. Eventually, Bekius settled on an internship at the Maine Coastal Botanical Garden in Boothbay, Maine.

After receiving several offers during the week, she frantically sought advice from others and searched Google for a polite way to turn down job offers.

“It was a little crazy,” said Bekius, a 19-year-old teenager from Avon, Connecticut. “She went with, ‘Will I have anything this summer?’ have four possibilities and, “Which one am I going to take advantage of?” ”

This year, for the first time in several years, employers can get more help from abroad. After restricting immigration as a precaution against COVID-19, the government begins to weaken: the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service has raised the limit on temporary work permits for H-2Bs used for seasonal work by 35,000 visas.

Cape Resorts, which operates several boutique hotels, cottages and restaurants in Cape May and elsewhere in New Jersey and New York, will hire about 120 international students this summer with J-1 visas, work permits, which are also serve as a kind of cultural exchange program. . The company has about 950 employees.

“Finding staff who want to be hospitable remains a challenge,” said Cindy D’Aust, CEO. “But it’s nice to see the return of our international students as well as college students returning for the summer season.”

However, today the employment rate of teenagers is not close to what it was before. In August 1978, 50% of America’s teens worked. Around 2000, teen employment went on for a decade. In June 2010, during a painfully slow recovery after the Great Recession of 2007-2009, adolescent employment reached 25% and grew slowly again as the economy recovered.

Teenagers from work were not given more than economic decline. Long-term economic strength and changes in personal choice have also contributed. The U.S. economy now offers fewer low-skilled entry-level jobs – ready for teens – than in the 1970s and 1980s. Many of those jobs that remain, ranging from supermarket clerks to fast food burgers, will increasingly be filled by older workers, many of them immigrants.

And many teenagers from wealthy families who are looking to enroll in the best universities have decided to give up summer work in summer school or volunteer work, which are mentioned in college applications. Others are now playing sports in the summer.

But COVID and its economic damage changed everything. At first, the economy collapsed as businesses closed and consumers stayed at home. Soon huge federal aid and ultra-low interest rates triggered an unexpectedly rapid recovery. Businesses tried to recall employees they fired and find new ones to keep up with new customer orders.

The U.S. unemployment rate has dropped to 3.6%, just over half a century old. This week, the government said employers posted 11.4 vacancies in April, up from a record 11.9 million in March, but still extremely high. On average, there are now about two jobs for every unemployed American.

Suddenly teenagers are in much greater demand. And the pay available to them – $ 15 or $ 16 an hour for entry-level work – draws some back into the job market. Adolescent employment has already exceeded the level before the pandemic, although in the general labor market this is still not the case.

Because desperate employers raise hourly wages, many teens can get jobs that are paid better than regular seasonal vacancies in summer camps, van parks and resorts, said Julia Pollock, an economist at ZipRecruiter.

“Now we have a big gap in the market,” she said. “There are no people who take the job that teenagers are usually given for pocket money.”

This has been a severe headache for Melissa Mrochek, who owns Nomad Wax Co., a company that makes soy candles and scented products in Omaha, Nebraska. Mrochek is struggling to become a paid marketing intern. Several candidates showed interest. The two reached the recruitment stage and then disappeared, despite the fact that Mrocek offers a salary above the minimum, plus school credits and a flexible schedule.

Never in the four years of Nomad Candle’s leadership and 15 years before that as a hiring manager at the national financial services firm Mrocek has it been so difficult to hire.

“We haven’t filled it out yet, and at this point we may not be able to,” she said. “So we can look for a high school student or try to move it to the fall semester and work directly with the professor to offer a loan.”

For teens who really want to work and have their own job choices, economists and other analysts welcome a change in destiny. Working in the summer gives young people the experience and increases the likelihood that they will work later in life, say Drexel researchers – good news for the U.S. workforce, which is losing a huge generation of baby booms to retirement. Entry-level vacancies also give teens the opportunity to learn how to manage money and communicate with colleagues and clients from a variety of economic and cultural backgrounds.

Lauren Gonzalez, who runs two hostels with her sister – The Local in New York and Lolo Pass in Portland, Oregon – is looking for a barista, bartender, event manager and sales manager. She recently raised pay for housekeepers and registrars, works that she previously had no problems filling out.

I definitely raise my hands in the air sometimes and say, “Where’s everyone?” «

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Anderson reported from New York. AP Economics writer Christopher Rugaber of Washington and AP authors David Sharp and Patrick Whittle of Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.

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