At a time of near double-digit unemployment in the United States, the job prospects for teenagers who want to work are even worse. One recent study from Northeastern University finds that only a quarter of teenagers aged 16 to 19 are landing jobs, down from half of all teens a decade ago.
With the Memorial Day holiday next weekend, the seasonal outlook for summer jobs is anything but sunny. If practice makes perfect, then Eudese Wilans will be ready for that big summer job interview.
"I can handle three things at once, maybe four things at once," Wilans said during a mock job interview.
Wilans is being trained on the "do's and don'ts" of job interviews by the Boston-based community development organization Action for Boston Community Development, or ABCD. She is one of a thousand teens who are all but guaranteed a job, chosen by lottery from 7,000 applicants.
"To work in a day care, to work in a school, to work in a summer camp would be my ideal job," Wilans said.
"We need to invest in these youngsters right now," said John Drew, president and CEO of ABCD. "They're our next generation. It will be woe on us if we do not step up to the plate."
The sad fact is Wilans may be one of the few lucky ones.
In 2000, 45.2 percent of the country's teenagers had jobs. That rate has fallen to just 26.2 percent now, the lowest since the end of World War II.
The summer jobs outlook is just as bleak. Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies predicts that 28 percent of teens will find a summer job this year.
"The magnitude of these declines are pervasive," said Andrew Sum, the center's director. "They've affected every gender group, every race-ethnic group, every family group across the country."
Sum says teens who cannot find a job may also struggle to find work in their 20's.
"We are denying them an opportunity to acquire these skills that employers value very highly," Sum said.
In Brooklyn, N.Y., with the help of a local jobs program, Robert Cirino and Zaire Williams learned basic job skills, including how to present themselves in public.
"Me being the exception, I'm just happy I got my job," Cirino said.
In just a few weeks, both teens will be working as ride operators on the famous Coney Island Boardwalk.
"I'm just real optimistic about the whole thing," said Williams. "I feel great about it."
In Boston, ABCD chief Drew says he can do better with more federal funds.
"What we need is help from Congress at this point to be able to get the money to get the kids off the streets," Drew said.
Next week Congress is expected to vote on $1 billion in funding to create an additional 350,000 teen jobs nationwide. That sounds like a lot, but an estimated 3 to 4 million teens will still be unable to find jobs this summer.