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Heidi Shaffer, Published June 02 2009

Summer work scarce in down economy

For most high school students, summer is a break from classes, sports and homework. It’s a time for vacations with family and fun with friends, thanks to a little extra cash from a summer job.

But the job market has tightened with a down economy, forcing unemployed adults into jobs teens ordinarily would take.

Dina Loomer, a youth coordinator at Minnesota WorkForce Center in Moorhead, who helps teens transition into the working world, has seen the trend more over the last year.

“Because there’s so much more competition for higher-end jobs, we’re finding our dislocated workers with unemployment running out taking entry-level jobs,” Loomer said.

Businesses often choose the more-experienced workers over teens, who are often searching for first jobs.

While North Dakota’s unemployment rate decreased from 5.1 percent in March to 4.2 percent in April, and from 5.9 to 5.2 percent in Clay County, the number of jobs is down and more applicants are vying for them, said Marty Aas, area director for North Dakota Job Service in Fargo.

Businesses noticed the increase in applications, and some are taking a different approach in advertising openings.

“A lot of employers are looking toward people applying directly to their business,” Aas said.

The Fargo Park District, which employs teens in jobs at the local pools and park events, posts openings online, where people can also fill out applications.

Jim Larson, director of finance and human resources, said there were some summers when the Park District didn’t receive many applications. That changed this year. “I’d be willing to say our applicants just about doubled,” he said.

Diane DeLeon, owner of Dairy Queen in Moorhead, also saw a dramatic increase in the number of applicants to fill six to 10 open positions.

DeLeon has a waiting list of high school and college students. This year she looked to last season’s applications and returning employees to fill the openings.

“When we hire them, we tell them we like to hire them for keeps,” DeLeon said.

A down economy also means some teens need to work to help their families financially.

“I’m seeing a lot more teens helping support their families,” Loomer said. “Some of the teens are helping pay rent or paying for their own clothing.”

For other teens, a summer job is a way to save some extra cash, and not finding a job might mean going without spending money or relying on parents.

“It’s not crucial I get a job. I don’t have a lot of bills to pay. It would just be nice to have spare cash,” said Dustin Daily, a sophomore at Fargo North High School.

Nate Carvell, a senior at Fargo North, applied for three jobs about a month ago and has yet to hear back, but he’s not yet concerned about his prospects. “I’ll find something,” he said.

A number of programs through state agencies are available to help teens find jobs. Agencies in both Fargo and Moorhead offer workshops and assistance with resumes and interviewing skills.

While many businesses in Fargo-Moorhead have hired for the season, there are still openings if applicants market themselves, Aas said.

“Dress appropriate, smile, be positive and have a good resume or work history,” he said. “Sell yourself to people.”

Readers can reach reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 235-7711