North Alabama teens finding less struggle for summer jobs
DECATUR, Ala. (AP) — For Kayla Jackson, finding a summer job has been easier this year.
The recent Decatur High School graduate works two part-time jobs with her paychecks going toward her college expenses.
“There’s ‘now hiring’ signs everywhere,” said Jackson, 18, who will be in the marching band at Alabama A&M University in the fall. “My friends wanting a job this summer have all found jobs, some paying more than they made in the past.”
Jackson works at Milo’s Hamburgers and just started working at Fort Decatur for Decatur Parks and Recreation. She said one of her jobs pays $8 an hour, 75 cents above minimum wage.
Jackson’s situation isn’t isolated. Teenagers hunting seasonal summer jobs are finding more choices and better pay opportunities because of the strong economy, local recruiters said.
“Employers are offering higher starting pay to get and retain their teenage workers,” said Amanda Merritt, regional manager for Automation Personnel Services of Decatur.
Fellow area job recruiter Michelle Holbert with Trojan Labor said it’s a buyer’s market.
“With the tight economy, we’re seeing some teenagers jump from job to job for 10 cents or a quarter more an hour,” Holbert said.
She said her company is presently looking to fill four custodial-type jobs with possibly 25 more openings on the horizon, ideal for unskilled teen labor.
Holbert and Merritt said the good economy has boosted recruiters’ business and increased pressure to find qualified employees.
The U.S. Department of Labor reports the nation’s unemployment rate was 3.6% in April, the latest statistics available, and Alabama’s jobless rate for the month was 3.8%. In April 2010, as the nation struggled to exit a recession, the jobless rate was 9.9%.
Stephanie McLain, Point Mallard park superintendent, agreed with the recruiters about the tight summer job market. She said Point Mallard Park reached its seasonal employment number, albeit a tad later this year. She said the number of applicants was down.
“With the unemployment rate so low, it’s great for the economy but not necessarily for us,” McLain said. “We struggled a little this time hiring enough workers.”
Last week, aquatic facility manager Nicole Belcher said the park has hired about 450 seasonal teen workers, with about 400 of those at the aquatic center. McLain said the park’s seasonal teen workers earn between $7.50 and $8.50 an hour, depending on experience.
Point Mallard Park management tries to accommodate teens with their busy schedules, including working around ball team and band practices, she said. “And we’re taking applications all of the time,” she said. “Some of the college students will be leaving jobs earlier because their schools start earlier than the high schools.”
The Decatur Youth Services’ Youth Employment Program prepares teens for seasonal jobs and provides guidance on interviews, showing respect to supervisors and teamwork.
“We try to train them early,” said Bruce Jones, DYS executive director. He said about 100 teens ages 14-15 are in the Youth Employment Program and will receive a $400 stipend at the end of the summer if they complete their work with nonprofits and community action programs. He said the jobs entail working four hours a day, five days a week for six weeks.
“If we can get them trained, maybe there won’t be people talking about a shortage of qualified employees,” Jones said. “We want the businesses to give these kids a chance so they can see the kids can be productive, show up on time and work as a team. When a kid turns 16 there are more opportunities for them to find summer jobs, fast food, grocery stores.”
The U.S. Department of Labor said the top seasonal jobs for teens include cashiers, work in food preparation and retail sales.
Information from: The Decatur Daily, http://www.decaturdaily.com/decaturdaily/index.shtml