Teenagers interested in summer jobs should waste no time looking for work _ if they haven't started already, some local employment personnel officials said Monday.

"They should apply now," said Audrey Benkenstein, program services manager at the CDO Workforce, which has offices in Oneonta, Delhi, Sidney and Norwich. "It is a tough market."

Businesses are seeking candidates now for summer jobs, Benkenstein said, and the jobs office can help teens with varied educational and experience levels identify opportunities.

No appointments are needed, she said, and applicants will find help on a walk-in basis.

Each year, the youth labor force _ those 16-to-24-year-olds working or actively looking for work _ grows sharply between April and July, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Last year, between April and July, the number of employed youths rose from 1.6 million to 19.3 million, the bureau said.

July traditionally is the peak for youth employment, but last July, 51.4 percent of that group was working, a decline of 4.6 percentage points from July 2008 and the lowest July rate since records started in 1948, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. The ratio has fallen by nearly 18 percentage points since its peak in July 1989, and the drop from July 2008 to 2009 reflects continued weak labor-market conditions because of the recession that began in December 2007, the federal Department of Labor division said.

Not only will youths face competition from their peers, but high national unemployment and the struggling economy also may mean less summer hiring overall.

Some opportunities were publicized starting in January, others, such as some jobs in municipalities, still are under funding review, several local officials said.

The city of Oneonta will have a range of jobs, including scorekeepers, playground staff and lifeguards, personnel director Kathy Wolverton said.

However, budget constraints will mean fewer jobs will be available this year than last, she said, though specific numbers weren't immediately available. The Recreation Department has posted jobs on its website, she said, and the time for training for summer jobs is approaching.

"It's going to be a difficult market for young people all around," Wolverton said. "Young people should get started as soon as possible."

Josh Zulkosky, 16, a sophomore at Unatego High School, recently found two jobs.

Zulkosky said he started working as a farm hand near his home in Otego about a month ago. He also is training to be a lifeguard at the Otego swimming pool, a job he said he applied for directly through local pool personnel.

Zulkosky said he expects to earn minimum wage at both jobs and be able to work at both of them this summer. The farm work is fun but hard, he said, and the lifeguarding skills will be useful if he has a chance to work at a beach someday.

In Delaware County, summer jobs for teenagers are processed through the county personnel office, Linda Pinner, personnel technician, said Monday. The county public works and planning departments together have 10 jobs for older high school students, graduates and college students, she said, and the county Youth Bureau has about 30 summer jobs for teenagers.

Lara Yambor, youth program director for Delaware County, said the bureau jobs are spread out across the county one or two to a municipality. Hiring is through a municipality or the bureau after data is submitted to the county Board of Supervisors, she said, and jobs may be office work, grounds work and lifeguarding, among other positions.

Abby Zulkosky, Josh's cousin in Oneonta, said she has started her first job learning to design and print T-shirts. Zulkosky, 16, a sophomore at Oneonta High School, said she would like to go into the art field, and the owner of the T-shirt business wants to sell it.

Zulkosky said some of her classmates talk about finding summer jobs but haven't done much to begin a search.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said 25 percent of employed youths in July 2009 worked in the leisure and hospitality industry, which includes food services, and another 20 percent worked in retail trades.

Renee Ward, founder of Teens4Hire.org, said teen employment might improve slightly this year, particularly if the federal government approves programs that give the private sector incentives to create jobs and hire youths.

Teens4Hire.org polls show that 80 percent of teens between the ages of 14 and 19 want paying jobs. Teens crave paid work-based learning experiences such as internships, co-ops and apprenticeships that make education relevant and provide opportunities to explore career options, the website said.

But for pay, teens also are willing to work as housekeepers and gardeners, the site said, because they need the income for school supplies, transportation, phones, clothing, college savings and in many cases to help support their family.

Taylor Spranger, 14, a freshman at Schenevus Central School, said she is looking for summer work that pays and might ask her grandfather for a farm job. Spranger said she would like to earn spending money and start saving for a car and college.

Recommended for you