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Published: Tuesday, 5/13/2008

Teen summer-job outlook mixed for Toledo area

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
From left, Asia Evans, Alexa Sanders, and Tanya Hufford got jobs at Netty's on Monroe Street, where hiring has been cut. From left, Asia Evans, Alexa Sanders, and Tanya Hufford got jobs at Netty's on Monroe Street, where hiring has been cut.
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Although not necessarily bleak, the job picture this summer for area teens seems to be mixed, with some employers cutting back on openings but others holding the line.

"The market, to be very honest, is very tight," said Craig Gebers, director of workforce development for The Source, Lucas County's one-stop shop for job recruiting.

"Overall, you have more people competing for jobs because unemployment is up. But the problem teens are facing is that people who were full time are now competing for the part-time jobs teens usually seek. As a result, employers can be more selective, and what hurts teens are a lack of experience and maturity levels."

The teen job market also is being squeezed by the economy, which has led to fewer jobs openings, and last year's rise in the minimum wage to $7 an hour from $5.15, which has given some employers pause when hiring.

Jeff Long, owner of the Netty's Inc. drive-in on Monroe Street, said he hired fewer seasonal teenage workers this year because of both the economy and the minimum wage. Owners of other Toledo area Netty's have also cut hiring, he said.

"Generally, our hiring is much tighter than we had been in the past, which is unfortunate because some kids won't be able to get the experience and opportunity for a job as a result," he said.

Bethany Klett, 16, of Sylvania, a high school junior, filed job applications over spring break with 10 employers. She hasn't heard back from any yet.

"I think the problem is a lot of people also applied where I applied," she said, She has more applications to turn in and hopes to get a job with the University of Toledo.

In Sylvania, Charles Nyitray, owner of Charlie's Home Made Ice Cream & Edibles Inc., has been well known in the community for giving high school students jobs in his ice cream parlor and Italian restaurant.

"In 25 years, this is the first spring we haven't hired at least four or five people," he said. "We're just not sure with the economy. We didn't have a very good winter, and it's been just an OK spring."

Another factor hurting job prospects is that when teens get jobs, they are reluctant to give them up. "My last new hire was in the fall, but I've got three kids coming back from college who asked to come back and work," he said.

John Challenger, president of an outplacement firm in Chicago, said teens looking for seasonal work are in a tough spot this summer.

"Most employers have decided they're not going to scale back hiring of teens in the sense of new graduates and internships," he said. "But entry-level jobs - that's a bit of a different story," he said.

A bright spot is that fewer teens are seeking summer jobs, he added. Surveys show only 42 to 44 percent of teens 16 to 19 are seeking jobs, with the rest going to summer camps, programs, or classes.

Not every employer is cutting back, either.

Jim Blanchard, owner of Blanchard Tree & Lawn Co., hired six teens to fill landscaping jobs, the same as last year. "It seems like there's a lot more interest than there has been for these jobs, so we try to give teens an opportunity. Getting their first job is important," he said.

However, many summer seasonal jobs have been filled. Mr. Blanchard made his hires several months ago.

But other employers have openings and plan to keep hiring for the next few months.

The Toledo Zoo, for example, has hired 50 employees between 16 and 18 to fill visitor services, cafe, merchandise sales, catering, and park operations jobs. The zoo has a few openings to fill, a spokesman said.

The zoo has hired about the same number of employees, 150, as last year for positions that start at minimum wage. But it got about 300 more applicants this year.

Teenage job seekers still looking for work might do well to try a favorite teen hangout, Westfield Franklin Park.

Westfield spokesman Sara Young said that as of yesterday, 10 retailers were looking for part-time employees ranging from hourly associates to part-timers. "We have 156 total retailers, so to have 10 of them looking for part-time positions is pretty good."

Contact Jon Chavez at:

jchavez@theblade.com

or 419-724-6128.



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