Lots of teens and college students are going to have plenty of time this summer to text each other, go to the movies, listen to iTunes and just goof off.
That's because the youth summer job market is expected to yield few opportunities, according to SnagAJob.com's national survey of more than 1,000 hourly hiring managers. Nearly half said they will not be recruiting summer employees this year.
Nearly one-quarter say that while they will be hiring, but at levels lower than last year.
"Teens and young adults in the West and throughout the country are going to face a tough hunt for a summer job," said Cathy McCarthy, SnagAJob.com's senior vice president of marketing. "In the West specifically, 44 percent said they wouldn't be hiring at all, so that's a 10 percent drop."
Nationally, teen unemployment has been far greater than general unemployment, said Dennis Doby, senior director in the Arizona Department of Commerce's Research Administration. In February, the national unemployment rate for teens ages 16 to 19 was 21.6 percent, compared to an overall unemployment rate of 8.1 percent.
The weak economy combined with higher wage mandates prompt higher unemployment among less experienced and less educated groups like teenagers and adults without a high school degree, according to the Employment Policies Institute, a nonprofit research organization that studies public policy issues surrounding employment growth.
So how do teens compete with other job-seekers?
"I really don't have the answer to that one, other than try not to get discouraged and just keep putting in applications," Doby said. "We're expecting the (overall) rate of job loss to begin slowing sometime in calendar 2009, but we're a ways from any type of real positive over-the-year job growth."
Many East Valley employers are reporting a big increase in applications for summer jobs from people of all ages. They're also reporting few opportunities.
"It's a very, very tough job market and I think it's going to be tougher on the teens this year, more so than any year in the past," said Warren Haeussler, owner of the Schlotzsky's Deli/Carvel Ice Cream at Higley and Brown roads in Mesa. "We're getting quite a few applications from adults looking for entry level jobs or the jobs that would normally have been filled by teens."
Andrew Packer, general manager of Bahama Bucks in Queen Creek, said he's received triple the number of applications this month than he received between February and April of last year.
"Unfortunately, we're not hiring as many as we'd like," he said. "At one store we hired four and at the other store we hired one ... so for the time being there aren't any more spots."
The recession hasn't stopped people from going to the movies, so Harkins Theatres will be hiring just as many employees for the summer, said spokesman Bryan Laurel. The company will be hiring most of its summer help next month, he said.
"It's interesting to see how many of these seasonal employees have come back to become full-time team members and eventually work their way up through the company, becoming supervisors or managers or general managers, and in some cases corporate office employees," he said. "We have been very fortunate that our business has always sustained through times of recession, war, etcetera."
The No. 1 thing hiring managers are looking for is a positive attitude, followed by schedule flexibility and previous experience, according to the SnagAJob.com survey. Teens and college students' greatest competition for jobs will continue to be other young people, but increasingly that competition will come from displaced older workers.
"They're individuals who might normally have been in full-time positions, so they do have beefier résumés than a typical student," McCarthy said. "But given that that's the third-most important thing to hiring managers, I don't think it shuts the students out completely. It just means it's a little tougher competition."
Fast food restaurants and the health care industry may afford more seasonal opportunities for young people, she said.
"People are still eating out, they're just tending to become more conservative in how much they're spending," McCarthy said. "And many of these companies are willing to hire at age 16 versus maybe some other types of companies that want you to be 18 or older."
As for health care, there's opportunities in support, such as helping seniors who would like to stay in their homes longer, she said. Responsibilities might include running errands and meal preparation, McCarthy said.