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Economic slump leaves teenagers without work


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POSTED: Monday, July 13, 2009

With the economy in recession and unemployment rates increasing every month, summer jobs for teenagers are drying up.

Hawaii's teenage unemployment rate is 20.2 percent, more than double the state's 7.4 percent unemployment rate, according to the Employment Policies Institute. The national jobless rate for teens seeking employment is 24 percent.

“;For vulnerable teens, not having a job today may mean never catching up with their employed counterparts,”; said Kristen Eastlick, a senior research analyst with the Employment Policies Institute.

According to a study from the University of North Carolina, unemployment experienced as long as 10 years ago continued to affect earnings negatively. Another study by Northeastern University found that jobless teens are more likely to drop out of high school, commit crimes and become pregnant, Eastlick said.

“;In this environment, teens and other low- or unskilled workers are crowded out of the work force by more educated or experienced applicants,”; said Eastlick.

She added that Hawaii's minimum wage is consistently higher than the federal level, which is associated with higher youth unemployment. “;When governments opt to raise the bar on entry-level employment by raising the minimum wage, employers are more likely to hire individuals with more experience, education or productivity.”;

Jessica Williams, general manager of Teddy's Bigger Burgers in Hawaii Kai, noticed a rise in applicants this summer with the weak economy: “;Last summer we hired seven new people, and it was kind of hard, but this year we had tons of applicants so we had a lot to choose from.”;

Kaili Schwartz, a 16-year-old student at Sacred Hearts Academy, worked at Teddy's previously and was rehired over the summer.

“;I was trying to look for one that's closest to home and the best paying, but I knew if I couldn't find any other jobs, I'd probably end up at Teddy's,”; said Schwartz, who applied at four to five businesses but did not get any responses. “;Because this is my last year (in high school), I need to start saving money for my own place, getting a car and just getting my life together.”;

Milano Freezer opened in Manoa Marketplace in May and hired 15 high school students. With five summer positions open, owner Devin Wong was forced to reject more than 30 applicants.

“;A lot of people didn't seem to be hiring for summer because they wanted long-term stuff,”; said 15-year-old Ashley Roberson, who plans to work at the yogurt/gelato bar during the school year.

Roberson, a Roosevelt High School student, said that it was her first job, although she baby-sits on the side.

According to the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, the number of work permits for 16- and 17-year-olds in Hawaii decreased 30 percent from 2008, dropping to 2,835 from 3,970. There was also a 20 percent decrease in work permits for 14- and 15-year-olds during the same span.

Shaun Nomura, a senior at Kaiser High School, began searching for his first job a month before school ended and remains jobless after applying to 10 businesses.

“;I've kind of given up. I was planning to work just for the summer, but now I'm going to try to work part time during school. I figure I have more time for people to call me back and have more opportunities,”; said Nomura, who called the job-searching process “;stressful.”;

“;I'm basically staying home and spending all the money I have.”;