Summer job bummer: Teen unemployment 24 percent

Teen summer jobs
Teenagers are among the hardest-hit working groups in the post-recession economy.
CBS News

The latest numbers show the unemployment rate stands at 9.1 percent, with the pace of job growth slowing. When it comes to new jobs, 70 percent of those are coming from small businesses, but many of them are struggling just to hang on.

Small businesses are often responsible for filling the summer job needs of America's teenagers. CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker reports that many 16- to 19-year-olds are finding the going rough when it comes to finding work once school is out.

Nearly 14 million Americans are looking for work

The Labor Department says the unemployment rate for those aged 16 to 19 last month was more than 24 percent. Compare that to May of 2000, when the rate was less than 13 percent.

Looking for summer employment has become a full-time job for 19-year-old Ana Galindo.

"I'm worried all the time. I'm worried because I have bills to pay," Galindo says.

She has filled out countless applications, but so far, the answer's been the same.

"At the moment we're not hiring, but we're just taking applications. We'll give you a call," prospective employers say.

Yet the phone never rings. College sophomore John Reed-Torres has been job hunting since last November. He says he's often competing with older workers and college grads for entry-level positions.

"People with Masters (degrees) trying to work at McDonald's. They're going to get hired before I do," Reed-Torres says.

The latest figures show California's unemployment rate among teenagers is more than 34 percent, which is nearly triple the state's overall unemployment rate of 11.9 percent. In cities such as Irvine, California, job fairs have been canceled because few companies have agreed to participate.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, it's not just the private sector turning young applicants away. In the past, L.A. teens -- especially those in low-income neighborhoods -- could count on getting summer jobs at city parks and pools. But this year, cuts in federal funding are putting a damper on those summer plans.

Last summer, Los Angeles hired 16,000 young people. This summer, only 6,000 will land a city job. Youth counselors are concerned.

"We're going to have thousands and thousands of students who are going to be on the streets//without an activity to do, " says Ozzie Lopez, executive director of the Youth Opportunity Movement.

Instead of waiting to be hired, some teens are creating their own businesses. A year ago, while still a senior in high school, Joaquin Horton developed a line of toys made from pipe cleaners. The young entrepreneur has already earned about a thousand dollars.

"Age doesn't matter at all. If you're just passionate about something, go for it, do it," Horton says.

Other teens are not so lucky, still waiting to hear those magic words: "You're hired."

For many teens with no jobs and no money, it could be one long, hot summer.