Summer Job Scene: No Vacancies; but a City Program Is Doing What It Can to Place Hundreds of Young People

Article excerpt

Byline: KEVIN TURNER

University of North Florida student Lindsay Rodgers has been looking for a job since the fall.

"It's been impossible to find one this year," the 20-year-old from Jacksonville said.

Thanks to a program sponsored by the city, however, she's been hired to work as a lifeguard this summer. The last time she participated in the Mayor's Summer Jobs Program was in 2006, and she's had other summer jobs since - last summer, she worked at Southeast Toyota Distributors as a driver, and the year before, she worked in a real estate office.

But this year is different, she said.

"My family, friends and neighbors - everybody's having problems right now," she said.

Joseph Pena, 20, also got hired through the same city summer jobs program as a lifeguard and said he feels lucky the program is there.

"I've heard from everyone it's hard to find jobs lately," he said.

Every summer for decades, parents have been telling broke and bored teenagers to get a job. And thousands have taken short-term summer jobs working in stores and restaurants, gaining lifetime experiences while earning money to put gas in their cars and buy a few wanted items, like clothes or video games.

But the summer of 2009 will be different than recent years due to a higher number of unemployed adults willing to take the jobs that teens typically work and a lingering economic recession that makes employers less able to create summer jobs for teens, said WorkSource spokeswoman Candace Moody.

"I think it's extremely challenging for teenagers this year," she said. "There are fewer jobs for everyone. Lots of employers are in a holding pattern. The malls are hurting; the retail stores are hurting."

Global outplacement consultant Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. reported last month that current trends indicate that for the first time since 1954, fewer than 1 million eligible teenagers will be able to land summer jobs this year. The firm noted that Bureau of Labor statistics indicate teen employment grew by about 1.15 million last summer - 29 percent less than the summer before.

Rodgers, Pena and about 1,400 other Jacksonville residents got help this summer. The Mayor's Summer Jobs Program used $250,000 from the city's Jacksonville Journey to hire 200 young people in city jobs, and WorkSource's Summer Success Program used $2.3 million in federal economic stimulus money to hire 1,200 youth from low-income families at nonprofit and other local organizations, such as YMCAs, schools and summer camps. …