Jobs may be scarce for everyone, but teens face a bigger hurdle finding employment 

Help wanted.

Those two words are music to the ears of anyone in search of a job. With the much-discussed recession of 2009, that proverbial sign may be in the window, but sometimes there are dozens of applicants for every position available.

Forget the mid-level professional and the newly minted college graduate for a moment. Let's talk about those who really need a job this summer, certainly in the eyes of their parents: teenagers. Too old for summer camp and not yet in college, with time and energy to spare, this group of potential employees, according to national research, will have the same amount of luck as last year in finding a job. Not great prospects, but there are jobs available. It just might take some ingenuity to find them.

In an annual survey recently released by the website for hourly workers,, hiring levels will remain the same as last year, with 29 percent of hiring managers planning to hire the same amount of employees as 2009. However, teens should apply as soon as possible because competition is quite fierce with many employers re-hiring teens from the previous year.  

David May, professor of economics and chair of Oklahoma City University's Department of Economics and Finance, said the employment picture overall is not as bad in Oklahoma as it is nationwide. Still, for the people on the lowest rung of the employment ladder " teenagers who are in high school " the outlook is not hugely in their favor.  

"The demand for service and products is weak," May said. "There are fewer people doing more work. Employees are working longer hours and are afraid not to do what it takes to keep their job. The problem right now is that there is not a lot of new job creation."

This calls for some creativity and the willingness to perhaps work for free.

"Kids new on the job market have to compete and market themselves in unique ways," he said. "That is the secret. Get creative in what kinds of services you could offer someone."

May suggested that teens poll their neighbors and see if there are any odd jobs they can perform.  

"I've had kids in my neighborhood knock on the door and offer to walk my dog for a few dollars or mow the lawn for half of what a professional crew would charge," he said. "Not a bad idea. I see a lot of members of the unskilled workforce create their own jobs and do pretty well. This is not easy for everyone to do, but it does work."

Then, there is volunteering, a good way to go for the young teen set, May said.

"Employers want to see the same level of commitment from volunteers as they do from paid employees. Be on time, communicate well with the boss, and demonstrate that they can do all of the things that paid employees do," he said. "When the market picks up again, they will have these important skills, because in the end, employers are afraid to hire people without any experience at all."

Valerie Moore is not inclined to hand out cash to the teens in her Norman household if they are not employed this summer. She runs Little River Trees along with husband, Steve Davies, and is raising three granddaughters, ages 13 through 17. With the end of the school year in sight, she said the pressure is on, at least for the older two.

"All kids think that just going to apply for a job is enough, simply filling out an application," she said. "I find that I have to push them to go back after they have filled out an application and check. I think this is true of most kids, not just mine."

Although they have been job hunting to some degree as time allows, Moore has a plan in mind if things don't pan out, job-wise. She will develop a list of chores and a schedule for work to be done around the house while she is working. Then, the girls can chose to complete a chore " say washing the woodwork or the car " for a certain fee and by a specified time. With a business to run, this saves Moore from doing a lot of the heavy lifting on the home front.

"If they want $10 for something, they can choose off the list and the schedule," she said. "They know I will not be giving them money this summer, so they can work for me around the house."

Looking down the road, May said, Oklahoma will lag behind the economic turnaround in terms of new job growth, but he expects the first part of 2011 to be a bit better for employment. Good news for those who may have worked for free this summer. "Susan Grossman

photo David May, professor of economics and chair of the Department of Economics and Finance at Oklahoma City University, suggests that teens compete in unique ways in the current job market. photo/Mark Hancock

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Susan Grossman

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