Adults Squeezing Out Teens for Summer Jobs
Nancy Solomon reports from New Jersey.
NANCY SOLOMON: The rain is pelting the dreary streets of Patterson and a job fair held on the campus of a local community college is no less bleak. The weather has kept away some employers, most notably a water park that hires hundreds of teenagers every summer.
And that leaves few options for kids like George Galarza, a 17-year-old who is finding few leads.
: I talked to the UPS guy. You got to be 18. I would just go to every store I see and ask if they're hiring.
SOLOMON: Even though it's on the campus of a community college, most of the job seekers at this fair are adults long past their school years. Annie Lewis Bosessi(ph) is 44 and lost her office manager job when the company she worked for went bankrupt. Now she's three weeks away from her unemployment running out.
: It's my first time ever having to be at a job fair. You know, I had steady employment my whole life. Crazily, I've also gone to a food kitchen, which, you know, I've donated to food kitchens; never been there.
SOLOMON: Bosessi finds two leads at the fair - a retail outlet and a payroll firm might be hiring. It's these kinds of jobs that are becoming tougher for young people to get, but seasonal jobs are still available.
: Take an example: a lifeguard. Now, they're competing with middle-age people to have those jobs. They've got that market under control.
SOLOMON: Carl Van Horn is the director of a labor research center at Rutgers University.
: But if you look at the retail sector, for example, you know, stores in the mall, you may find a slightly grayer work force this summer than you would, let's say, in 1999, when the economy was booming.
SOLOMON: The New Jersey Department of Labor is responding to the trouble inner city teenagers have finding jobs with a new program to help them compete.
: What were some of the questions that stumped you guys?
U: Tell me about yourself.
: Tell me about yourself. Okay. So let's start with that.
SOLOMON: Laurie Ann Pisa is teaching a one-day class for Patterson teenagers that helps them fill out applications, dress for work, and interview for jobs. Eighteen-year-old Diana Jerund(ph) joined the program after looking for work on her own and finding nothing.
: I was going to every store and like apply for jobs, and I guess I wasn't that good enough or something like that. So I came here and I learned a lot about interviewing and everything. I know what to say now.
SOLOMON: Jerund has been promised a job at Mountain Creek Water Park and the jobs program will provide a bus for her and many others in this class to get there each day. But college students who want to work at some of the country's best summer jobs at Yellowstone Park or Lake Tahoe, California, are finding increased competition.
: they'll stay through September after the college students have all headed back to school.
For NPR News, I'm Nancy Solomon.