Summer jobs few and far between for teens
Seventeen-year-old Courtney Andrews has a vacation to Florida planned.
Natalie Ernst, 16, is volunteering at a weeklong church camp.
Her friend, 16-year-old Rachel Sweeney, is teaching some ballet classes in exchange for free lessons.
As they ease into their summer vacation from high school, all of these students say they are unemployed.
But really, they don't mind.
"I live off of birthday money," Ernst said, laughing. "I don't need much."
And her parents would rather pay her expenses than have her scramble to make time for her other interests, such as church camp, she said.
Nationwide, teen unemployment is high. As the economy slows, summer vacationers are having to compete with job-seeking adults who have been fired or laid off.
The national teen unemployment rate was 18.7 percent in May, the highest rate since 2003. The statistic is based on the number of teenagers who are seeking jobs but not getting hired.
Teen employment has dropped significantly since 2000, and fewer than half of youths from families making $75,000 to $100,000 worked last summer, according to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.
And while many Peoria youth are consciously avoiding the daily grind, there are some searching unsuccessfully.
Less than half of the 128 teens who applied for Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis' summer employment program got the job. Some did a poor job filling out their applications, but others were simply too young. Workers had to be at least 16 years old.
Ernst said many of her friends who have sought summer work thought they weren't chosen because they were too young and had no experience.
"(Employers) would rather have older people," she said.
Zach Patterson said there might be some truth to that statement.
The owner of Patterson Lawn and Landscape said he has not had much luck with hiring teenagers. Many don't have the skills or the work ethic to last in the landscaping field, he said.
"A lot of these 18- and 19-year-old guys don't exactly want to go out and lift a hundred pound block all day," he said.
Daryn Harrell, 18, of Peoria said she, like most of her friends, went most of her high school career without working.
She had her first interview for a cashier's spot at Lakeview Pool this summer, and so far, so good.
"I just like keeping myself busy," Harrell said.
While she had no job, Harrell said she still had some money to spend and even owned a car. Fortunately, her parents were willing to foot the bill, she said.
"If it wasn't for them, I would be in trouble," she said.
Alka Nayyar, spokeswoman for Illinois Department of Employment Security, said young job seekers might serve themselves well by branching out, looking outside the typical retail or lawn mowing businesses.
"If you think you might be interested in health care, for example, try looking for an internship at a local hospital," she said.
Joe Crawford can be reached at (309) 686-3251 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tips for teen job seekers
NETWORK: Tell everyone you know - teachers, friends, family members, religious leaders - that you're looking for work.
SHOE LEATHER: Visit retail stores within commuting distance and ask to speak to a store manager. Go at a time when the store won't be crowded, not a busy weekend day. When you meet managers, remember to smile, shake their hands and introduce yourself.
DRESS THE PART: When you're looking for work, dress conservatively. No ripped clothes, short skirts or low-cut tops.
DREAM: Want to be a chef? A lawyer? Call businesses and organizations related to your interest and see if they need any help. If they don't, ask if they have suggestions for you as you search. If there's a place that really fits your interests and isn't hiring, consider an unpaid internship, which could open the door to a paying job later.
Source: Covenant House New York and the College Board