Teens have never had a better job market amid labor shortage – Statesman Journal

The first official day of summer is less than a week away, and that means thousands of local high school and college students will be looking for jobs.
In summer 2022, teens who want to work are in the driver’s seat like never before. With the unemployment rate near a 50-year low and businesses desperate to find workers as the economy rebounds from the pandemic, teens are finding more openings and better pay.
The Salvation Army KROC Center in Salem is gearing up for its busiest season this summer, but just like the rest of the country, it’s been dealing with a shortage of lifeguards to hire.
To clear that hurdle, the KROC Center has offered a reduced price and even free lifeguard certification classes, which typically cost $200 for a three-day, 20-hour course on top of the $40 American Red Cross registration.
KROC Center Director of Marketing Rick Marazzani said this year they raised its starting pay from $13.75 in 2021 to $16 an hour for lifeguards starting Jan. 1, 70 percent of whom are in high school or college.
“We’ve been working really hard knowing that half of them are going to go to their community pool and be lifeguards,” Marazzani said. “So we understood that giving away free lifeguard classes wasn’t just for us, but that they were going to protect pools around the county.
“It is slowly paying off, and we should have the aquatics team staffed-up soon.”
Aside from lifeguard classes, the KROC Center also provides as many hours of swim lessons, recreational swim and lap swim as possible.
“Though, we always need more lifeguards so we can provide better water safety and be open more hours to the public,” Marazzani said.
Marazzani said the short supply of applicants is “perplexing” and one guess is that young people were enjoying socializing and interacting with friends after the long quarantines and shutdowns.
Other sports-related summer employment at the KROC include fitness attendant, sports day camp counselors and group fitness instructors.
The KROC Center also offers a free teen program called Rebound that hires young adults to college-age people to play games, lead projects and activities. The Rebound Drop-in lounge also has the staff to tutor on homework and help study.
Marazzani said the Rebound staff offer programs and classes throughout the year that teens are free to participate in if they wish.
“Job training for today’s tough is important to the KROC,” Marazzani said. “Most of our teen programming has a component of career training, life skills and certifications.
“We have a program over the summer where teens who attend will get their food handlers, card, CPR certification, job coaching, résumé building and interview practice.”
The high demand for teen workers is a dramatic change.
Nicole Ramos, a workforce analyst at the Oregon Employment Department, said the percentage of teens working has been trending down since the 1990s. However, recent data has shown an increase in total quarterly new hires from 2020 to 2021 in age groups 14-18 and 19-21.
In 1978, half of American teenagers held down a job, the Associated Press reported. In the decades since, fewer have joined the workforce with the number falling steadily since 2000. By 2010, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, only 25% of 16- to 19-year-olds collected a paycheck.
Researchers at Drexel University’s Center for Labor Markets and Policy predicted in a report last month that an average of 33% of youths ages 16 to 19 will be employed each month from June through August this year.
The Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association reported 35,720 total job postings from May 2021 to April 2022.
Further data showed the top companies with over 1,000 total postings included, Starbucks, Kroger, McDonald’s, Chipotle, Pilot Flying J and Mod Pizza, while the city of Salem was among the top five cities with 1,695 postings.
“Our post-COVID reality has turned that trend on its head and created expanded opportunities for youth looking for their first job once again,” ORLA President & CEO Jason Brandt said.
The Boys & Girls Club of Salem, Marion and Polk Counties have experienced the same hiring challenges that organizations across the nation are feeling primarily because its focus is with youth through high school age and staffs 18 years or older.
“We run a teen workforce development program year round,” Boys & Girls Club Director of Marketing Kari Roberts said. “Through that they are eligible for some of our summer employment opportunities.
“It is a specialized program and our positions are all filled.”
The Boys & Girls Club also runs summer sports camps where many of its staff members work for during the school year as referees in its youth sports programs.
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Contrary to Marion County’s overall current labor market trend, the City of Salem’s Parks & Activities department, which hires 16 years or older for its recreation activities, has had an excellent turnout heading into this summer.
City Public Information Officer Trevor Smith said they wrapped up its hiring process early last week and are expected to hire more than 20 people to help staff its summer recreation program.
“We have noticed that many businesses with entry level opportunities are raising their minimum salary equal to or above our salaries,” Smith said. “Fortunately, our positions attract an outdoorsy, active and energetic person.
“The unique opportunities of working outdoors with kids in our parks system helps us find good applicants in this competitive labor market.”
Edith Noriega is a sports reporter for the Statesman Journal. You may reach her at ENoriega@salem.gannett.com and follow her on Twitter at @Noriega_Edith.

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