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Many Teens Face A Lean Back-To-School Season

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Many Teens Face A Lean Back-To-School Season

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Many Teens Face A Lean Back-To-School Season

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JACKI LYDEN, host:

The job market is also grim for the nation's teenagers. New figures released yesterday by the Labor Department show that unemployment rates inched down in July. But overall, the jobless rate for 16- to 19-year olds is the highest on record for any summer since 1948.

More than one in 14 job seekers can't find work. They're facing more competition from out-of-work adults, and recent grads who can't find work in their fields. NPR's Carolyn Beeler reports that it might be a lean fall for students returning to school.

CAROLYN BEELER: Justin Brown is one of the lucky ones. This summer, he's operating an old, wooden rollercoaster at a Six Flags amusement park in Maryland.

Mr. JUSTIN BROWN: Thank you guys so much for riding the Wild One. Push down, pull up on your lap bar.

BEELER: Seventeen-year-old Brown had work experience at the park, and that's what helped him get hired again.

Mr. BROWN: I worked here last year, the same job - in rides. And I really like it here. It's a fun atmosphere.

BEELER: At this Six Flags, job applications by adults increased by almost 25 percent over last year in the lead-up to the summer season. Some of the jobs that used to go to teenagers are now going to people like Margaret Cole, who's taking tickets at the entrance to the park.

Ms. MARGARET COLE: Hello, how are you?

Unidentified Person: Good. Thank you.

BEELER: Four out of five of the greeters working the turnstiles are, like her, older adults. Two years ago, Cole left a federal job for medical reasons. She had held it for 24 years. But now she's back in the job market and unable to find a good-paying job.

Ms. COLE: I can do this until something better comes for me. You know you have a job, and you make your ends meet wherever you can.

BEELER: Older adults who were laid off are increasingly applying for jobs that used to be entry-level positions. So are college grads who can't find work in their fields.

Andrew Sum is the director for the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, a left-leaning research and policy group. He says the employment rate for teens has been declining for the past decade. But this summer, it's the worst since the government started tracking the numbers in 1948.

Mr. ANDREW SUM (Center for Labor Market Studies, Northeastern University): We are doing a lot worse than we had even projected we'd be doing, and it looks like this summer will be a record, new-low employment rate for the nation's young people.

BEELER: Sum says typically, it's easier for teens who live in small towns to find jobs. Employers are more likely to hire a teenager if they know and trust their families.

Mr. SUM: Kids who live in small towns, employers are much more trusting of young kids. Think they ought to work, know them, and will hire them - I know Andy because his dad shops at my store.

BEELER: But that's not working for everyone is this economy.

Malissa Copaz is an 18-year-old who lives in Crestview, Florida.

Ms. MALISSA COPAZ: It's a really, really small town in Florida, so there's more competition for the jobs there.

BEELER: Copaz spent the beginning of her summer driving around to fast-food restaurants, submitting job applications. She worked at Pizza Hut last summer, so she has experience. What she didn't have was any luck.

Ms. COPAZ: It's completely ridiculous because I need a job; I'm going to college. I need to be able to pay for my books and stuff, and scholarships only get you so far.

BEELER: Copaz has given up on finding a job for this summer. Her scholarship covers her tuition, but she says she'll have to cut back on summer fun so she can afford her books this fall.

Carolyn Beeler, NPR News, Washington.

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