With the national unemployment rate at 8.1 percent and the state’s at 8.9 percent through April, according to the U.S. and Georgia departments of labor, the issue is at the forefront of America’s concerns. But while the general topic is receiving attention, the challenges faced by teenagers in the present job market are often overshadowed.
With school now out for the summer, teenagers between 16 and 19 across the Atlanta area are searching for summer employment. As many have come to find though, the pool of local jobs available to teenagers has been significantly reduced in recent years. Fewer jobs have resulted in a relatively high unemployment rate for teenagers 16 to 19 in Georgia, which as of March, the last month data was available, had reached 27.9 percent, according to the Employment Policies Institute.
Especially as summer 2012 commences, high school students are beginning to experience the reality of these statistics. Many have been searching for a summer occupation since April, with some still not employed. Claire Taylor, a rising junior at Riverwood International Charter School in Sandy Springs, shared the difficulties she had in her own search for a summer post. Taylor began looking for a job in May, applying to five positions in the local area over a period of one month.
With fewer jobs available, the criteria for obtaining a position at the present has changed and can prove problematic for teen applicants. The first challenge faced by Taylor in applying to these positions is one that is common among teenagers who are first-time jobholders.
“Most places are looking for people with some sort of experience, and I had to leave the experience section on all of the applications blank,” Taylor said.
In addition, many of the places that offer summer employment require applicants to be at least 18, which poses a problem for high school students such as Taylor. After several weeks of searching, she finally obtained a summer position at Breugger’s, a newly opened bagel store in Sandy Springs.
For Taylor, the key to finding a summer position was patience, as well as the good fortune of finding a new business with a high demand for labor. For other teens, though, opportunities like these do not arise, and they must either continue searching or alter their personal criteria for a job.
For example, many teenage job applicants are forced to settle with fewer hours or reduced pay in order to find work.
“Being a high-schooler, I have lost hours to college students with more credentials who get more hours and get hired at higher positions,” said Andy Nichols, a recent graduate of Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School and an employee of Play it Again Sports in Buckhead.
Another alternative for coping with the difficult job market is for teenagers to simply not look for paid summer positions. Many local high school students are turning instead to unpaid summer engagements such as internships, in order to cultivate skills that might later translate into a job with a salary. For some teenagers, though, it is a financial necessity to acquire a paid job, and a post without a salary is not a practical alternative.