Stuff to know

Joshua King has been looking for a summer job for several weeks, to no avail. The Reynoldsburg teen has tried fast-food joints, grocery stores and big-box retailers, but he hasn't had any luck even getting an interview, he said.

"It's not good because a lot of places just aren't hiring," the 16-year-old said. "And of the places that are, a lot of them want people who are older or have more experience." His job search is harder this year, thanks to the recession. Summer jobs typically held by teens now are being sought by older workers who have been laid off or are looking for a second job to supplement their income.

The jobless rate for 16- to 19-year-olds already is high, standing at 21.7 percent in March compared with 15.8 percent a year earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. But some help is on the way from the city of Columbus, which announced plans to add 3,500 youth jobs this summer. City government will contribute again this year toward a summer-jobs program run by the Central Ohio Workforce Investment Corp., which is receiving federal stimulus money as well for its YouthWorks effort.

Gailmarie Harris, director of youth services for the agency, said the program places 14- to 24-year-olds in jobs and paid internships with public and private employers. The paychecks will be welcome in the tight economy, but the program also includes a career-exploration component that helps young people choose a field to pursue, she said. The agency will seek participants through area school districts and outreach in Columbus neighborhoods such as Franklinton, Linden and Marion-Franklin, and in suburbs such as Grove City, Reynoldsburg and Whitehall.

Although the influx of 3,500 youth jobs is good news, it won't replace those that are normally available to younger workers but won't be around this year, said Jim Newton, chief economic adviser for Commerce National Bank. He said the jobs provide teen workers income and give them the ability to spend some. But compared with the number of jobs that have been lost and the jobs' lower wages, "it'll be a modest stimulus to the Columbus economy, but not something that will have any measurable impact," Newton said.

For those teens who aren't able to get a job through the program, the competition is difficult, as young people often lose out to unemployed older workers.

There's been a distinct shift in the demographics of people coming to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium's seasonal job fairs, said Steph Mizer, human-resources director. She said more adults are applying for summer-vacation jobs that students usually had taken. "We've had so many people tell us they will literally take anything, they don't care that it pays $7.75 an hour and has no benefits," Mizer said. "Some have told us they've been laid off for months; some are very emotional and crying."

The zoo started hiring in February for its 1,200 seasonal jobs to staff the zoo, its golf course and Zoombezi Bay. It now only has 150 jobs left to fill, she said. "We've had adults apply all across the board, some who are saying they need a second job and some are laid off and are looking for anything they can get," Mizer said. "We haven't seen anything like it, not to this extent. It's tough to see."

Employers nationwide shed 663,000 jobs in March, raising the jobless rate to 8.5 percent, its highest level in 25 years. Since the recession began in December 2007, 5.1 million jobs have disappeared. In Franklin County, the jobless rate stood at 7.7 percent in February, the most recent month for which figures are available. "It'll be a tough market with more people chasing fewer jobs," said John Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray and Christmas, a Chicago outplacement firm. "Employers are being cautious about taking on more workers this year because there's not much money in the kitty this year at many companies."

Nearly half of hiring managers, 46 percent, say they won't be hiring for summer jobs this year, according to a survey by SnagAJob.com. But 73 percent of hiring managers expect to receive more applications this summer. "The reality is that this recession hasn't hit rock bottom," CEO Shawn Boyer said in a statement.

Teen employment has been at historic lows during the past few summers, but the outlook is even worse this year, said Joseph McLaughlin, a research associate at the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. More people in their early 20s who can't find work in their chosen careers are going back to their teenage jobs and older workers who are finding that their retirement savings aren't enough to live on are competing for those jobs, he said. "Workers are at the point now that they will take any job they can get," McLaughlin said. "Older workers are pushing teens to the back of the hiring group."

But there is some good news. Despite layoffs and closings at pools and recreation centers, Columbus Recreation and Parks will hire summer help, said Director Alan McKnight. But he doesn't expect many vacancies because many who worked last summer as lifeguards and camp aides plan to return.

For information on job services available through the Central Ohio Workforce Investment Corp., call (614) 559-5052 or go to www.cowicjobleaders.org.