For generations, a summer job has been a rite of passage for American teenagers.
But this year, teens face grim employment prospects as the recession hits hard.
At the same time many of their parents are out of work, the number of U.S. teens finding summer positions has plummeted to an all-time low, reports Early Show Saturday Edition co-anchor Chris Wragge for the special series, "CBS Reports: Children of the Recession," which is being done in association with print partner USA Today.
Suddenly, Wragge points out, many teens need the jobs to help their families stay afloat, not just for spending money. What's more, the recession is pitting teens against older, more experienced workers for what are traditionally considered summer spots.
Wragge sat down with several students at Bloomfield High School in Bloomfield, N.J. to discuss the teen summer employment scene, and the picture they pained was far from encouraging.
Bianca Rivera, 16, a junior, has been looking for a summer job at a daycare canter, and says, "They ask you your age, and when you say 16 they say, 'OK, okay we'll give you a call after you sign the application,' and they never call."
And Bianca isn't alone.
Students told Wragge they're having a tough time finding work at restaurants, summer camps, furniture and moving companies, and in many other fields. They're told they're not old enough, or need degrees and more qualifications.
One said simply, "It's gonna be extremely hard."
Statistics show that 33 percent of teenagers held jobs last summer, down from 45 percent in the year 2000. And experts predict even lower numbers for this year. Also, when compared to the national average, teens are now almost three times more likely to be unemployed than other U.S. workers.
That worries teens such as 18-year-old senior Akeem Marriott, who found a job at a local supermarket, but only after searching for months. "The way it is for us teenagers nowadays is like, older people are getting jobs easier, because they already have family, houses and more responsibility. So, us teenagers trying to get a job, it's a little bit harder, because employers usually just ease off and are like, 'Oh, yeah, there's other families out there and they need a it more than you guys need it,' not knowing our situation."
Their situations vary, says Wragge, but unlike their older brothers and sisters, these teens aren't necessarily paying for video games or trips to the mall.
"I figure, says senior Jessica Camacho, "that anything that I can pay for with my money will help out my Mom, because I have a younger sister, who also has her expenses."
Senior Samuel Vargas says, "It got to the point that my parents said that I had to help. I have no problem helping. I thought it wouldn't come to this, but it did."
"Just two days ago," says fellow senior Gino Silvera, "I paid my Dad's medical bill that was like 100-something dollars that he couldn't pay, because he doesn't have insurance. And every once in awhile, I give a few hundred for groceries or helping with bills, things like that. ... I don't really use any for myself."
And those teens' stories are fairly typical, according to Renee Ward, a former corporate recruiter and founder of Teens4Hire.org, one of the largest job-focused Web sites designed specifically for teens.
She told Wragge, "I predict this will probably be one of the worst summers for teen employment. I would suspect probably one-out-of-every-three teens will actually land a job, so that means there will be millions and millions of teenagers who won't be able to find opportunities."
Where are the jobs going?
"They're going to older adults. They're going to senior citizens. They're going to other people who have been laid off or their 401(k) has been depleted. These are people who really need the opportunities, as well. This year, for the first time, we had more parents calling us to help them get their teens jobs than we had teens calling us saying, 'Where are the opportunities?' Obviously, this does affect families tremendously."
Ward says teens need to persevere. "There are activities that always peak during summer months," she points out. "Those create opportunities for teens. Like your swimming pools, your recreation areas, amusement parks, themes, your movie theaters, grocery stores -- those activities peak during the summer, so they will always need additional people. ...By the same token, this might be the summer of the teen entrepreneur! There are ways for teens to make money on their own. They have to be creative with their parents and think of different ways in which they could make money. I think we have to change the mindset - that it's not necessarily about getting a job, but about earning money, and the ways in which you can do that."
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