Bellevue West senior Elizabeth Gau works as a cashier at Michael's craft store and is considering picking up a second job for the summer — maybe hosting at a restaurant, or working as a summer camp instructor.
She may be in luck. Checks with several metro- area private employers indicated they are hiring teenagers, either because it's business as usual for them or because they're seeing fewer adults competing for part-time jobs.
The most promising prospects for teens looking for jobs? Businesses that see their highest traffic during the summer.
Amigo's & King's Classic President Roger Moore said the recession hasn't affected Nebraska as heavily as other states when it comes to adults and teens in competition for part-time jobs. He said the percentage of teens working for Amigo's is the same as it was four or five years ago — about 60 percent.
Moore said Amigo's is always hiring. However, the combination of more teens applying for jobs in April and May and their ability to work more hours in the summer allows the company to hire more people in the months leading into summer.
“We do a little more hiring in April and May, not so much in July or August,” Moore said.
Fun Plex near 72nd and Q Streets hires employees every summer to staff its water and ride parks. Human resources assistant Sarah Anderson said the park typically hires 25 to 30 people each summer and aims for a variety of ages, sometimes targeting schoolteachers and bus drivers.
“We definitely shoot to hire a lot of high school and college-aged kids since they have that summer off,” Anderson said. She said the number of adults applying for a part-time job at Fun Plex had increased in recent years, “but this year it seems to be on the decline.”
Allen Wachter, vice president of the Amazing Pizza Machine, agreed. He said he saw an uptick in adults applying for part-time jobs at the local fun center during the recession. Some were unable to find a full-time job, and others were looking to pick up a second job. This year, he said he's seeing fewer adults in that situation.
Wachter said the Amazing Pizza Machine hires more employees during the spring to prepare for summer, when the business is busiest, but is always hiring.
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“I don't know that there's been a week in the year when we haven't had a job posting or recruitment,” he said.
The hiring, however, is not necessarily reflected in the unemployment rate among 16- to 19-year-olds in Nebraska, which increased in 2012 to 13.5 percent from 12.4 percent a year earlier. Iowa's unemployment rate among teens in 2012 was about 16.8 percent, up from 14.2 percent in 2011. The national unemployment rate remained much higher than both states in 2012 — about 24 percent. In all cases, the teen rates are at least three times the overall unemployment rate.
Nebraska's commissioner of labor, Catherine Lang, said the teen unemployment rate always trends higher than other groups. As the economy gets tighter, Lang said, young workers are those most likely to be affected first. Youths also tend to come in and out of the labor force.
Grant Pearson, human resources manager at the Hy-Vee supermarket at 156th Street and West Maple Road, said he has seen an increase in applications from adults for part-time positions the past few years. This year, he said, the trend has continued but the number of adults applying for part-time jobs seems to be decreasing.
“We're not receiving as many applications as we would have maybe two years ago,” he said.
Pearson's Hy-Vee is looking to add “a handful” of cashiers as summer approaches. He said he often does quite a bit of hiring in June in preparation to fill positions of employees who may be leaving for college in the fall.
He said he's hiring fewer teens compared with last year, when he worked at the 144th and Stony Brook Boulevard Hy-Vee. He said that's probably because the previous location was just a block away from Millard South High School and many teen workers went to school there and recruited their friends.
Roger Hall, operations manager at Cornhusker Auto Wash in Bellevue, said there has been an increase in adults applying for jobs at the car wash, but he doesn't see them taking over teen jobs. He said about half of those working there are teens, and they are needed because they're more available to staff the car wash from about 3 p.m. to the 6 p.m.close.
Hall said he plans to hire two to three part-timers for the summer. He usually adds four or five during the winter, his busy season.
Chris Doyle, general manager at Village Pointe Cinema, said about 60 percent to 75 percent of the theater complex's employees are teens. Doyle said the theater is always hiring but usually adds five to 12 employees for the summer and winter holidays because of increased business. This summer, he's looking to fill about 10 part-time positions.
The numbers have remained about the same in terms of teen and adult applications, he said, with adults working in the day or as managers and teens filling hours over the weekend and in the evenings. “We're busy Friday and Saturdays, and they're available then.”
Bellevue East junior Weather Smith said she sees a diversity of ages at Wheatfields cafe in Shadow Lake Towne Center, where she works as a waitress. Smith said it can be difficult to work during the school year with sports and extracurricular activities, but she makes it work by picking up more shifts on the weekends during those times.
Hunter Amoruso, a senior at Bellevue East, works for Gallup surveying people over the phone. Amoruso said when he applied about five months ago, most in the group interview also were high schoolers. “It varies,” Amoruso said. “There's a lot of high school kids there, but a lot of adults, too.”
Local employers interviewed said 16 is not too young to hire, and many said it was common for their establishments to offer first jobs.
“We do it all the time,” said Moore of Amigo's. Fun Plex's Anderson said the amusement park loves offering first jobs to teens.
Wachter, vice president of the Amazing Pizza Machine, said he started out as a teen answering the phone at a local Valentino's. Twenty-eight years later, he said, he's still working with pizza.
“You never know where life is going to take you.”
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