For many teens, a summer job means something temporary to pick up pocket money.
For others who are older or who have been thrust into adult responsibilities, their job hunt is more serious.
Both types of young people, though, are looking at a tough job market this summer. As unemployment in all age groups rises, more people are seeking positions that ordinarily go to young, inexperienced workers.
“There’s more competition for these jobs, so you really need to decide what you want to do this summer and start early,” said Doug Tweedy, regional economist for the Washington Employment Security Department.
Donohvan Dunigan, 17, was at the Next Generation Zone, the youth employment center at Spokane’s WorkSource office, last week looking for work and trying to wrap up his GED. Dunigan is looking for a full-time job, not just summer work at a theme park, to support him and his pregnant girlfriend.
But he’s like other teen job hunters in many respects: He doesn’t have much experience, he’s not sure what he wants to do, and the working world sometimes seems alien and unfair. He was surprised, for example, to discover that a fast-food restaurant where he worked would judge employees based on how they dressed and their demeanor. Now, he says, he’s looking for “basically anything I can get.”
“I need to make it where we have a steady job and a check in our pockets,” he said.
Tweedy said the Spokane economy usually adds an estimated 1,200 summer jobs for teens and young people, though those estimates can overlap with other typical teenage jobs during the rest of the year. He said that for teens ages 14 to 18, the most common jobs are in the amusement/recreation, restaurant, retail and maintenance industries.
Young adults older than 18 most commonly find jobs in manufacturing and construction, as well as a wide range of fill-in jobs across the economy, to help businesses deal with vacations.
Employment among young people shrank slightly over the past decade, although it’s moving upward again. That’s part of a typical pattern, Tweedy said: When families are generally doing better, fewer teens look for work, and vice-versa.
Jobs for teens and young adults are part of the Obama administration’s stimulus package, with money directed toward giving summer jobs to low-income people ages 16 to 24. The Spokane area has received $1.5 million for the project, and will employ 400 young people this summer. More information about that program is available at nextgenzone.org.
Cami Hanson, chief operating officer for Career Path Services, which operates the youth employment program, said organizers hope that some young people can find long-term work through the program. She also emphasized that teenagers who don’t qualify for that program can still get a lot of help through the Next Generation Zone, including job-hunting skills, GED completion and other resources.
“There’s a lot more kids and young adults (than 400) who are going to be looking for jobs,” she said.