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Summer job market remains tough for McHenry County teens

CARY – As young job hunters start applying for summer jobs in the coming weeks, they could face stiff competition.

The summer job market isn’t what it used to be and many seasonal jobs are filled by returning employees, making it harder for teenagers who are looking to find their first job. 

Competition for some of the best jobs is high.

About 150 young people filled out applications for summer jobs at the Cary Park District on Thursday. Many came in groups or with parents in tow.

The park district is looking to fill up to 70 positions, but many of those spots could be taken by returning workers, officials said.

“We have lots of returning employees,” said Tina Blakesley, a program manager at the Cary Park District. “They love it, so they keep coming back.”

Fellow program manager Erica Hedlund said the park district got about 150 applications in 2012 and expected a similar number in 2013. The park district is almost always able to fill seasonal jobs.

“The room is usually full,” Hedlund said of the annual summer job fair.

Hedlund and other managers are looking for qualified workers and prefer to hire those with previous experience, even if it comes from school activities or volunteer work, she said.

Brent Eggers, 18, of Cary, hoped his previous volunteer work helping children at the Northern Illinois Special Recreation Association would set him apart. He was interested in coaching and instructional positions, but said he was really looking for any opening this summer.

“It seems like a really fun job,” he said after filling out an application Thursday.

Eggers said he wanted a job this summer to stay busy and earn money.

The situation will be similar this week when the Crystal Lake Park District holds its teen job fair from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at Park Place, 406 W. Woodstock St., Crystal Lake.

The job fair allows teens to meet with several potential employers in one place.

The Crystal Lake Park District hires 150 to 175 temporary employees each summer and has never been short on applicants. Last year more than 300 people applied for fewer than 50 open positions. The vast majority of the park district’s summer workers are returning employees, officials said.  

“There is not much turnover for park jobs,” said Crystal Lake Park District Recreation Supervisor Connie Cooke.

In McHenry County, the industries with the highest percentages of workers under the age of 18 are accommodation and food service (15 percent) and arts, entertainment and recreation (11 percent), according to the 2012 McHenry County Labor Report.

Nationally, 26 percent of employed youth under the age of 24 worked in the leisure and hospitality sector and another 19 percent worked in the retail trade industry, according to a 2012 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The report showed the proportion of the 16- to 24-year-old civilian noninstitutional population with a job was 50.2 percent last July, up from 48.8 percent in July 2011.

Overall, teen summer employment rates have been waning since 2000, according to a 2010 Teen Summer Employment report from Bureau of Labor Statistics. Two recessions were partly to blame, as were a number of other factors.

The report cited higher summer school enrollment, the recession-weakened labor market, a declining number of federally funded summer jobs, and competition from other age groups for entry-level jobs.

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