For many Long Island teens trying to land a job this summer, the season will be a disappointing one.
Even as the teen population grows, the number of job opportunities for them is dwindling or, at best, remains flat. Among the causes:
A sluggish economy and stubborn teen-unemployment rate of more than 25 percent;
Increased competition from high-school grads, college students and older, experienced workers;
And more Long Island teens between the ages of 15 and 19.
They are facing these job woes amid new concerns the U.S. economy is showing renewed signs of deterioration with home prices falling and job growth slowing, as two reports last week showed.
Courtney Guendel, 16, a junior at Connetquot High School in Bohemia, has been job hunting for a year and a half after losing a job as a hostess at a local restaurant. "I've looked everywhere," said Guendel, who is also enrolled in an Eastern Suffolk BOCES clinical medical assisting program.
With so many more experienced workers available, some businesses are hiring them for jobs that used to be for teens.
Sandy Hollow Day Camp in Southampton, which typically hires up to seven teens for the summer, hired a 50-year-old freelance writer for a counselor's job, said Beth Hughes Barrie, camp director.
"They're calling like crazy," Hughes Barrie said. "I've never spoken to so many older people."
Long Island teens also have more competition among themselves as the number of jobs has failed to keep up with teen population growth. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of teens ages 15 to 19 grew by 17.4 percent while employment on Long Island grew by just 0.4 percent, according to the latest U.S. census and state Labor Department data.
Twin Oaks Day School in Freeport has already hired its usual 50 teens for jobs as sports assistants, counselors and lifeguards for this season, said director Cheryl Abbani. Yet she still receives about 20 emails a day from adults and teens looking for work, she said.
"I open my mail, and it's unbelievable every day," she said.
New York State's latest teen unemployment rate indicates growing distress as April's rate rose to 25.6 percent from 23.4 percent the prior year. By way of comparison, the federal teen jobless rate was 23 percent in April. As high as it is, the unemployment data masks how stressed the teen job market really is because some teens have given up looking for work and aren't included in those numbers, said Algernon Austin of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington.
"That suggests it's going to be a tough year for teens in terms of finding work, " he said.
And if that picture is bleak, it's downright grim for African-American teens, who have the highest jobless rate of any group in the United States, and it seems to be worsening. Their jobless rate rose to 40.7 percent in May, the latest federal report shows, from 38.5 percent a year earlier.
"We're just not making the kind of job improvement that we need to make for young people and adults," said Professor Gregory DeFreitas, economist and director of Hofstra University's labor studies program. "After 3 1/2 years since the start of the recession, it's unusually slow growth."
For many teens, state, federal and local governments were once a stable source of summer jobs, but budget deficits have severely limited those options, the experts said.
Last month, the Suffolk County Department of Labor, citing funding cuts, notified the Urban League of Long Island that it won't be able to sponsor the Hempstead-based group's Summer Youth Employment and Training Program this year. As a result, the group is facing the prospect of placing just six minority teens in six-week paid internships this summer, compared with the usual 30.
The Iavarone Bros., an upscale food market, employs 30 to 35 teens year-round at the chain's Wantagh location. And that store has hired eight teens in the past two weeks, two more than last year, said Christopher Iavarone, vice president of operations for the four-store chain. But the need for teen jobs is so high that he receives about 30 applications a week -- including from some adults -- about 20 percent higher than last year.
But not all teens have had difficulty finding employment and some experts maintain that those with a trade have an easier time.
Catherine Muller, the work experience coordinator at Eastern Suffolk BOCES' Edward J. Milliken Technical Center in Oakdale, estimates that of the 350 students, about half of the student body, that apply for summer jobs each year, as many as 40 percent obtain summer jobs because they are learning a trade such as culinary and barbering skills.
"That gives them the edge over other high school students," Muller said.
Still the overall job market remains challenging for teens, with no near-term improvements on the horizon.
"Their job situation tends to lag the rest of the labor markets," DeFreitas said. "We really have to get the adult employment situation much better. Then that shift historically leads to more opportunities opening up for teens."
HOW SOME LI TEENS ARE FARING
Courtney Guendel, 16, unemployed
Junior, Connetquot High School; enrolled in Eastern Suffolk BOCES program for clinical medical assisting program.
Employment status: Has been job hunting for a year and a half after losing her job as hostess at a local restaurant last year. She is hoping to find a job so she doesn't have to rely on her parents to pay for gas for her car.
Her outlook: Employers she contacted have said they don't have enough work for all their current employees. And "they're already laying off people," she said.
E'Neysia Denny, 16, unemployed
Junior, Central Islip High School
Employment status: Has been looking since January, in hopes of finding a job to save for college. She has filled out at least seven applications at retail stores and restaurants and has inquired at many more. No one has called her.
Her outlook: To keep from getting discouraged, she asked herself: "Being that it's hard for adults, what makes you think it's not going to be hard for us teens?" But she said, "It turned out to be even harder."
Employment status: Works part-time as a line cook at a local seafood restaurant to save for college and a car. Found job after looking for two days.
Advice for other teens: "Don't be afraid to get dirty and do work at the bottom of the barrel."
Employment status: Works as a part-time cook at the Shirley location of a national chain to save for a car and insurance. Found a job after looking for about seven months.
Advice for other teens: "Offer [the skills] that you have and allow them to see into that real person, and set yourself apart from everybody else."
A FEW MORE JOB SEARCH TIPS
Inquire where others are not. Outdoor jobs involving heavy labor or behind-the-scenes jobs are often not as sought-after by teen job seekers.
Look for odd jobs at odd hours. Offer to work evening and night shifts and to fill in for vacationing employees. Search for these types of positions during the hours they operate.
Sell your skills door-to-door. Do what good salespeople do -- start on one block and go from business to business. Don't simply ask for an application. Introduce yourself and build rapport with the hiring manager.
Call friends and relatives. Parents and other relatives are often the best sources for information on job leads. Stay in touch with friends and other classmates, especially those who have been able to find jobs.
Dress for the part. Even if you are applying to a road crew, show up to interviews in professional attire. You want the focus on you and your skills, not on your ripped jeans and paint-splattered T-shirt.
Don't hesitate to revisit employers. The types of businesses seeking seasonal employees typically have higher-than-average turnover. An employer who did not hire you a couple of months ago might need more workers now.
Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas