According to a recent report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, fewer than three in 10 American teenagers now have seasonal jobs from June to August. In fact, the employment for the 16- to 19-year-old age group, which has been in sharp decline since 2000, hit its lowest level since World War II. While the research does not break the numbers down by specific counties, in Georgia, the teen unemployment rate is 25.7 percent.
“If the recent weakness for job creation is an indication of the summer job market, 2012 will probably prove to be another weak market for summer jobs,” said Don Sabbarese, economics professor at Kennesaw State University and director of the Econometric Center at KSU.
But there are pockets of seasonal jobs available. For example, Six Flags Over Georgia and Six Flags White Water are two of the largest employers of teenagers in the metro area. Each year, the parks employ around 2,600 seasonal employees, Six Flags spokesman Brad Malone said.
Teenagers usually make up just more than half of the parks’ seasonal workers, Malone said, though in recent years, that has fallen some as more adults use seasonal work to offset unemployment or to supplement their incomes.
Gloria Kusmik, manager of the state Labor Department’s Cobb-Cherokee Career Center in Kennesaw, said teenagers seeking jobs must stay aggressive and use the resources at their disposal. For example, the Center provides myriad employment-related services, including job expos and individualized recruitments.
“You can’t be discouraged by what’s happening out there,” Kusmik said. “It’s tough for everybody. Today’s companies have such a large pool of applicants to choose from. The key is to get noticed in a positive way, not a negative way. Whether you walk in the door or call, be organized and show the prospective employer that you’re serious about the job.”
Callie Majors, senior manager of marketing and development for Junior Achievement of Georgia-Atlanta District, said teens can still cultivate valuable professional skills.
“The summer break is an ideal time to explore various careers by securing an internship, which provides an opportunity to gain experiences, make valuable contacts and develop skills that can benefit them throughout their life,” Majors said.
Spencer Kurchan is one of the lucky teens. The 16-year-old Pope High School sophomore is spending his summer working at a Chick-fil-A in east Cobb. Kurchan was hired last August and worked eight hours a week during the school year before increasing his hours this summer.
“It’s a lot of work, but I’m not in the trenches. I work up front, in the takeout area, and in the drive-thru,” Kurchan said. “I’m one of the lucky ones, I know.”
Spencer Kurchan’s brother, Alex, also works at Chick-fil-A, which is how Spencer found his job. Kusmik, of the Labor Department, said that’s not unusual.
“You have to use every resource you can,” Kusmik said. “Resumes, job fairs, networking are all good. But sometimes, it’s just knowing somebody who knows somebody.”
Michael J. Pallerino has reported on business news for magazines and newspapers in the Atlanta area for more than 20 years.