07/13/09 — County teens are finding tougher job market, too

View Archive

County teens are finding tougher job market, too

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 13, 2009 1:46 PM

Full Size


Joel Bunn takes a customer's order at Western Sizzlin restaurant. The 18-year-old recent graduate of Rosewood High School, who has worked there since February, says he was fortunate to find a job during the competitive economic climate.

Finding a summer job became even more complicated for teens this year because of the economy.

Instead of plentiful opportunities, many have found the job hunt more competitive as older workers out of a job are also vying for positions.

Joel Bunn, a recent graduate of Rosewood High School, got his first job in Smithfield when he turned 16. He worked at the Gap Outlet, where a relative was an associate.

When he decided to work closer to his home, he applied to "a lot of places" before being hired.

"I had retail experience, but didn't want to necessarily be in sales," said the 18-year-old, who found a job at Western Sizzlin, where he has worked since February.

As a "block person," his duties range from running the cash register to breaking down the salad bar.

He might be one of the fortunate ones.

"Out of 128 students at Rosewood (in his graduating class), probably one-third of them actually have a job," he said. "Most of us, well, I buy my own food, my own clothes. Mom and Dad have three other children."

In the fall, he will attend the University of North Carolina at Wilmington on a Teaching Fellow scholarship. He hasn't decided whether to pursue a job while going to school.

"I'll play it by ear, because I know there are like 2,000 other freshmen trying to look for a job," he said.

Ryan Harris is a 20-year-old business student at Wayne Community College.

The job search, he admits, has been "hectic."

"Almost every single job that you apply for, everything involves technology," he said. "I have been applying for so many jobs. You never even get an e-mail or a phone call back so you're just kind of left hanging. I have been to a couple places and walked in -- and they had jobs -- but you have to do the applications online. Almost every application that I have filled out in the last two or three months has been online."

Working online sometimes narrows down the search, Harris admits, but can also be an involved process.

"I'm just looking for anything that will hire me, basically," he said. "I have been trying for almost anything."

The lack of any sort of response has been particulary frustrating, though, he said.

"They don't even give you an e-mail back or reply. I don't know if they actually get it and look at it. You're kind of left dangling. ... If they went back to the good old days -- paper applications and people talking to you -- I wouldn't have to worry about it."

Some students, particularly those heading off to college in the fall, might opt to just enjoy the summer and not worry about pressure to find a job for such a short time.

Others just need to be occupied and have a place to go.

Erika Parry, parent of a young teen, said she didn't much care if it was a paying job as much as having her daughter busy and gaining a sense of responsibility.

"I want her to be doing something, even if it's volunteering at the library or somewhere else in town," she said.

Even jobs like the typical fast food fare that cater to hiring teens are feeling the pinch.

Joyce Craft, manager at Burger King on Spence Avenue, said the "abundance" of teens applying this summer has been consistent with years past. The difference, she said, is they are forced to compete with more seasoned workers.

"I see a lot of older people applying," Ms. Craft said. "Even grown men laid off from factory jobs that are coming in. I'm having to turn away from every (category) with the economy the way it is and the demands of the business. ... There are still only so many people I can hire."

Likewise, at Western Sizzlin, which hired Bunn, a mix of ages are seeking employment.

"I would say on average we probably take three to five applications a day and some of those are teens and some are older folks," said Kris Tyson, assistant manager. "We see a lot of them come in when they get out of school for the summer. We hire quite a few high school kids."