Summer job market especially tough for poor kids

Stop by your favorite fast-food joint this summer, and you might notice that the cashier who rings up your order is missing something.


Rising unemployment among experienced workers is squeezing high schoolers out of the retail, restaurant and service jobs teens have traditionally filled during warmer months.

At two Tropical Smoothie Café locations on West Charleston Boulevard in Summerlin, teen hiring fell about 20 percent this spring, estimated co-owner Jessica Boykin. Teenagers account for about half of Boykin’s 40-person staff; the other half comes partly from a steady stream of experienced job applicants in their 20s, 30s and even 50s.

As summer arrives, the job market for teens is suffering along with the rest of the economy. And those jobs will be harder to find this year for the poorer kids who need them the most as laid-off adults compete for work at the lowest rung. The unemployment rate in Las Vegas reached 5.6 percent in March, compared with 4.4 percent in the same month a year earlier, according to statistics from Nevada’s Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation. The increase in joblessness means stiffer competition for teens seeking work.

"Summer is a time when the rich get richer and the poor get poorer," said Ron Fairchild, executive director of the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University.

Wealthier teens are more likely to have the family and school connections that help them land summer jobs — as counselors at the camps they attend, lifeguards at the pools where they swim and clerks at the stores where they shop.

Last summer, half of teens whose families earned $75,000 to $100,000 worked, according to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University. Less than a third of teens from families making less than $20,000 had work.

Black teens in central cities had just a 15 percent employment rate. And because early work experience makes it easier to get a job as a grown-up, the tougher market for poor teens hobbles them as they get older.

"The kids who need work the most get it the least," said Andrew Sum, director of the center.

The teen job market, like the overall economy, is looking bleak.

The overall unemployment rate for teens jumped from 15.4 percent in April to 18.7 percent in May, the highest rate since 2003. Roughly 200,000 teens, an unusually high monthly number, started looking for work. The unemployment number is based on how many teens are actively –and unsuccessfully — seeking jobs.

Teen employment is down sharply since 2000, when the economy peaked and the Clinton administration ended a federal summer jobs program. The rate of teens who had jobs last year was the lowest in more than half a century, Sum said.

It’s not that there are fewer jobs for teenagers.

In Las Vegas, the number of hourly positions listed through job-seeking portal jumped 20 percent in May when compared with the same month a year earlier. Companies including Marriott Vacation Club, Hyatt Place and Rhino Staging & Event Solutions want more hourly workers and have marketed jobs through the site. The number of listings held steady year over year at as well, as did positions available through the Clark County School District’s Career and Technical Education job bank.

Competition is the real issue.

Marie Coger, operations manager at Premier Staffing Solutions in Las Vegas, said the local job market is flooded with workers willing to take positions below their skill level. Administrative assistants accept assembly work, while carpenters and electricians settle for jobs as general laborers. The drop in pay can amount to nearly $10 an hour.

What’s more, retired seniors with decades of work behind them are jumping back into the labor pool because Social Security checks no longer cover basic costs such as gasoline, which averaged $4.26 a gallon for unleaded, regular fuel in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

Companies, eager to get the "best bang for their buck," snap up such veteran employees, Coger said.

"They’re going to get an experienced worker who comes in for the same price as someone else they would have to train," she said.

Boykin first noticed the uptick in seasoned job hunters at Tropical Smoothie in November. She said she hasn’t seen anything like it in the seven years she’s been in business.

"When I started out, we’d see a lot of 16-year-olds applying," Boykin said. "Now, we see a lot of older folks, because there are so many things going on with the economy."

As long as she has the choice, Boykin opts for "older people who are a little more responsible." Among her recent hires: a 30-year-old Michigan transplant who’s been looking for five months for a clerical job to match her experience.

The teen-job drought could have wide-ranging implications, Coger noted.

Teens who can’t find work miss out on the key life experiences that come with a first job. They also lose the opportunity to "find their calling" while trying out several potential career paths, Coger said.

Teens should take important lessons from today’s employment woes, Coger added.

"I know right now it’s very trying on them," she said, "but this should be an eye-opener that their education means a lot and they need to stick with it."

Cities that offer programs to help poorer kids find work have been besieged by applicants.

In Buffalo, N.Y., the mayor’s summer jobs program had 4,500 applicants last year for 2,500 slots. This year, the program will focus on teens at or below the poverty line and limit jobs to one teen per household.

"Four children from one family applied," said Tanya Perrin-Johnson, the commissioner of community services and recreation.

The Food Project, an urban farm in Boston that tries to hire a balance of urban and suburban teens, interviewed twice as many city youth for positions this summer as it did suburban teens. One year it had 300 urban teens for 37 spots, said spokeswoman Jen James.

One of the hurdles for teens is competition from older and more qualified workers. Clients of Covenant House, a youth social services agency in New York, are competing for fast-food jobs against people who’ve been to college.

"It’s a buyer’s market," said Bruce Henry, the agency’s director. "People are demanding higher levels."

Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee worked as a paperboy and as a ballpark usher during summers when he was a teen. When he talks about his city’s summer jobs program, two stories haunt him.

A day and a half after the mayor met with a group of kids taking part in the program, one of them was murdered.

Another time, a TV reporter asked a boy he had interviewed about a summer job whether his family would watch the newscast. The boy demurred — he was homeless.

"For some of the kids, it’s a pretty fragile existence," Barrett said. "Anything we can do to break out of a cycle of poverty or hopelessness is something I’m very interested in doing."

Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at or 702-380-4512. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

A Walk Through Circus Circus
It only takes a short walk through Circus Circus to realize it attracts a demographic like no other casino on the Strip: families with young children. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Morphy Auctions, a vintage slot machines seller, wants gaming license
Vice president Don Grimmer talks about Morphy Auctions at the company's warehouse located at 4520 Arville Street in Las Vegas on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. (Rick Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada's venture capital money doesn't stay in state
Zach Miles, associate vice president for economic development for UNLV, said there’s venture money in Southern Nevada, “but trying to find the right groups to tap into for that money is different.” According to a 2017 report from the Kauffman Foundation, Las Vegas ranked number 34 out of 40 metropolitan areas for growth entrepreneurship, a metric of how much startups grow. With a lack of growing startups in Las Vegas, investment money is being sent outside of state borders. The southwest region of the U.S. received $386 million in funding in the second quarter, with about $25.2 million in Nevada. The San Francisco area alone received about $5.6 billion. (source: CB Insights)
Neon wraps can light up the night for advertising
Vinyl wrap company 5150 Wraps talks about neon wraps, a new technology that the company believes can boost advertising at night. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Nevada on the forefront of drone safety
Dr. Chris Walach, senior director of Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems, talks to a reporter at NIAS's new Nevada Drone Center for Excellence of Public Safety, located inside the Switch Innevation Center in Las Vegas. K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @KMCannonPhoto
Motel 8 on south Strip will become site of hotel-casino
Israeli hoteliers Asher Gabay and Benny Zerah bought Motel 8 on the south Strip for $7.4 million, records show. They plan to bulldoze the property and build a hotel-casino. Motel 8 was built in the 1960s and used to be one of several roadside inns on what's now the south Strip. But it looks out of place today, dwarfed by the towering Mandalay Bay right across the street.
Project billed as one of the world's largest marijuana dispensaries plans to open Nov. 1
Planet 13 co-CEO Larry Scheffler talks about what to expect from the new marijuana dispensary, Thursday, July 19, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Oasis Biotech opens in Las Vegas
Brock Leach, chief operating officer of Oasis Biotech, discusses the new plant factory at its grand opening on July 18. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UNLV Tech Park innovation building breaks ground
Construction on the first innovation building at the UNLV Tech Park is underway. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caesars Forum Meeting Center
Caesars broke ground Monday on its $375 million Caesars Forum Meeting Center (convention center) just east of the High Roller observation wheel. (Caesars Entertainment)
Technology reshapes the pawn shop industry
Devin Battersby attaches a black-colored device to the back of her iPhone and snaps several of the inside and outside of a Louis Vuitton wallet. The device, installed with artificial intelligence capabilities, analyzes the images using a patented microscopic technology. Within a few minutes, Battersby receives an answer on her app. The designer item is authentic.
Recreational marijuana has been legal in Nevada for one year
Exhale Nevada CEO Pete Findley talks about the one year anniversary of the legalization of recreational marijuana in Nevada. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Young adults aren't saving for retirement
Financial advisors talk about saving trends among young adults. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
President Trump’s tariffs could raise costs for real estate developers, analysts say
President Donald Trump made his fortune in real estate, but by slapping tariffs on imports from close allies, developers in Las Vegas and other cities could get hit hard.
Las Vegas business and tariffs
Barry Yost, co-owner of Precision Tube Laser, LLC, places a metal pipe into the TruLaser Tube 5000 laser cutting machine on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Nevada Film Office Connects Businesses To Producers
The director of the Nevada Film Office discusses its revamped locations database and how it will affect local businesses. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Opendoor isn't the typical house flipping company
Unlike most house flippers, the company aims to make money from transaction costs rather than from selling homes for more than their purchase price.
The Venetian gondoliers sing Italian songs
Gondolier Marciano sings a the classic Italian song "Volare" as he leads guests through the canals of The Venetian in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Building In Logandale
Texas homebuilder D.R. Horton bought 43 lots in rural Logandale. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Indoor farming in Southern Nevada
Experts discuss Nevada's indoor farming industry. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Fontainebleau could have become a Waldorf Astoria
Months after developer Steve Witkoff bought the Fontainebleau last summer, he unveiled plans to turn the mothballed hotel into a Marriott-managed resort called The Drew. But if Richard “Boz” Bosworth’s plans didn’t fall through, the north Las Vegas Strip tower could have become a Waldorf Astoria with several floors of timeshare units. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LVCVA CEO Rossi Ralenkotter announces plans to retire
Rossi Ralenkotter, CEO of the LVCVA, on Tuesday confirmed a Las Vegas Review-Journal report that he is preparing to retire. Richard N. Velotta/ Las Vegas Review-Journal
Cousins Maine Lobster to open inside 2 Las Vegas Smith’s stores
Cousins Maine Lobster food truck company will open inside Las Vegas’ two newest Smith’s at Skye Canyon Park Drive and U.S. Highway 95, and at Warm Springs Road and Durango Drive. Cousins currently sells outside some Las Vegas Smith’s stores and at Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas home prices to continue to rise, expert says
Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, gives homebuyers a pulse on the Las Vegas housing market. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NV Energy announces clean energy investment
The company is planning to add six solar projects in Nevada, along with the state's first major battery energy storage capacity. Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal
3 Mario Batali restaurants on Las Vegas Strip to close
Days after new sexual misconduct allegations were made against celebrity chef Mario Batali, his company announced Friday that it will close its three Las Vegas restaurants July 27. Employees of Carnevino Italian Steakhouse, B&B Ristorante and Otto Enoteca e Pizzeria, all located in The Venetian and Palazzo resorts, were informed of the decision Friday morning. Bastianich is scheduled to visit the restaurants Friday to speak to employees about the next two months of operation as well as how the company plans to help them transition to new positions.
Nevada has its first cybersecurity apprenticeship program
The Learning Center education company in Las Vegas has launched the first apprenticeship program for cybersecurity in Nevada. It was approved by the State Apprenticeship Council on May 15. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like