Word of mouth is often the way for a teen to get a job, a job analyst said.
By JOSH ECHT
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- Tracy Lesicko, 18, and Amber Allen, 17, consider themselves lucky: They have summer jobs.
Most area teens are not as fortunate as Lesicko and Allen, friends who graduated Sunday from Austintown Fitch High School.
Teenagers in the Mahoning Valley are struggling to find jobs this summer. Most teenagers who find work will do so at entry-level jobs, said Don Curry, labor market analyst with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services in Mahoning County.
"It's a hidden job market," Curry said. "Most area businesses are small, so positions are filled through word-of-mouth and someone knowing someone."
Allen said she knows about networking. She began working at Austintown's Ponderosa Restaurant in March.
"I was lucky because I was hired on the spot," she said. "I knew friends who worked there."
Lesicko has worked at Westgate Pizza for 11/2 years but wants another job this summer to boost her work week from three days to six.
Curry said teens are competing with older workers and immigrants for fast-food and retail service jobs this year.
"You might have a worker who is 81 as well as an 18-year-old working at the same place," he said.
The teen job market might improve slightly soon, he said, although that could bring good and bad news for teenagers. Curry said an improving job market encourages some adults out of work to start seeking jobs held normally by teens.
"You have more jobs in a recovery, but you also have more job seekers," he said.
The unemployment rate for teens is roughly double to triple the Mahoning County adult rate, which is 7 percent, he added.
According to the Northeastern University Center for Labor Market Studies, the 2004 national teenage employment rate hit its lowest level since 1948, with 36.3 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds working. In 2000, 45 percent of teenagers worked.
Curry said teenagers should let friends and family know they are looking for a job and pay attention to their appearance.
"Employers pay attention to details and want to know you are serious about getting the job," he said. Curry said teens should dress professionally for an interview, even at an entry-level job.
"Entry-level jobs provide teenagers with work experience," he said. "Getting along with the boss, the public, showing up on time and getting the job done are the main keys."
Most employers look for promptness and reliability in their employees as well, said Maria Holzhauser, manager of McDonald's, 2525 Market St.
"We want him or her to be dependable and outgoing -- a people person," she said.
Supervisor Keith Holzhauser, Maria's husband, said the restaurant is always accepting applications.
"Business is seasonal and dependent on volume," he said. "Each restaurant has its own hiring situation."
The economic recovery across Ohio has been slower than expected, hindering job access, said Dennis Evans, a public information officer for the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services.
Evans said the economy weakened during a recession in late 2001.
"Since then, it has improved slightly more for metro areas in Ohio compared to rural areas," Evans said. Because Ohio is a manufacturing state, he said, the layoffs from the recession hurt skilled workers, some of which compete for traditionally teenage jobs.
"There is competition now for entry-level jobs," Evans said. "I don't expect that to change this year."
"The market goes through a tough recovery period from the recession," he said. "It has not picked up to the levels seen during the 1990s, however."
Despite the shaky economy, the area has resources such as the Mahoning Columbiana Training Association to assist teenagers with employment matters.
"Youth receive job training in the form of speaking skills and interview skills," said Tonya Hawkins, MCTA youth service coordinator. "Employers want younger people who have job readiness training."
Hawkins had some advice for teenagers seeking jobs.
"Start off small, and set goals for higher employment," she said. "Practicing job skills like showing up on time ... dealing with the boss in entry-level jobs will pay off."
"Get everything you can from the smaller jobs," she added.