Deschamps has worked as a pizza cook in three different
Buffalo restaurants, a fair amount of work experience for a
That's why it's frustrating for him to have to send out
more than 30 applications to restaurants, supermarkets and
other companies and hear the same response from each: "We'll
call you when something opens up."
"I think it's a lot harder this summer," said Deschamps,
who is entering his senior year at South Park High School. "A
lot of kids are staying at the same jobs they had this year.
My friends and I are looking at roofing and landscaping-type
jobs, something temporary for now."
Deschamps' situation is typical of many teens this summer
in Western New York and across the nation, as they face the
worst summer job market in nearly 40 years, according to a
study commissioned by the National League of Cities Institute
for Youth, Education and Families.
The study, prepared by the Center for Labor Market Studies
at Northeastern University, says 37.3 percent of teens were
employed between January and April of this year, an 8 percent
decrease from the same period two years ago.
That weakening teen employment rate, as well as a faltering
national economy and cuts to summer job programs, are evidence
of the worst market for teenagers in decades.
As high schools let out for the summer last month, the
national unemployment rate for 16- to 19-year-olds rose 0.8 of
a percentage point to 19.3 percent, as 611,000 people, many of
them teenagers, entered the labor market but were unable to
find work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The national teen jobless rate for June - which, unlike the
lower federal figure, includes those who have given up looking
for work - rose to 59.1 percent, the highest June unemployment
rate in 55 years and the highest ever for a summer month,
according to an analysis of labor statistics by the Children's
Defense Fund. Among minorities, teen unemployment was even
higher, with 78.3 percent of black and 68.4 percent of Latino
teens without work.
For teens like Kristen Brent, who admits she may have
started late in looking for jobs after her junior year at
Williamsville East High School, the flooded teen market means
giving up on the numerous applications she sent out to stores
along Transit Road, and accepting whatever comes up.
"I'm pretty desperate right now. I'd wash dishes, I'd clean
toilets, I'd do anything," Brent said.
College students are also feeling the effects of the
diminished summer job market, said Stephanie
Zuckerman-Aviiles, director of career development at Buffalo
State College. More students are either sticking with the
part-time jobs they kept in high school and throughout last
year, or are traveling and studying abroad, Zuckerman-Aviiles
Morgan O'Donnell, 20, of Buffalo, is one of the lucky ones.
An advertising major at West Virginia University, she returned
this summer to claim her job at Sweet Tooth on Elmwood Avenue.
O'Donnell, who has been working for Sweet Tooth during
Christmas and summer breaks since May 2002, said she's
thankful that she didn't have to deal with the stress of a
summer job search.
"I have to work during the summer to pay for my apartment,
books and bills," said O'Donnell. "I like to work here. . . .
It's fun, I get to meet a lot of different people who come
into the shop."
Anna Hejmanowski, a sophomore education major at D'Youville
College, had worked as a gymnastics instructor at the
Southtowns YMCA branch for the last six summers, but the
construction of a new facility this year left her without a
definite job and looking for work. She was one of around 200
applicants to the recently opened Build-A-Bear Workshop, which
hired about 30 employees when it opened in May.
"I wanted to stay with jobs involving children, and I
figured Build-A-Bear was the best job out there right now,"
said Hejmanowski. "I'd have liked to stay at the after-school
program, but they couldn't be sure they'd have a job for me."
Buffalo State's Center for Excellence in Urban and Rural
Education normally provides around 100 education students
part-time jobs in Buffalo city schools through its Summer in
the City program, giving them teaching experience beyond their
traditional student teaching internship, said Wynnie Fisher,
the program's director.
This year, however, a political battle between Gov. George
E. Pataki and the State Legislature held up $25 million in
federal funding for 25,000 summer jobs, mainly for
underprivileged youth, until late June, and the Summer in the
City program didn't receive funding early enough to set up
positions for its members, Fisher said.
"It's really more of a loss for the city. The students get
familiarized with an urban setting, and the majority come out
loving the city of Buffalo and wanting to teach here," Fisher
Jeff Nixon, director of the city's summer youth employment
training program, said nearly 800 children, aged 14 to 17,
would have lost on-the-job training opportunities this summer
if state funding hadn't come through, but the program "made
some optimistic planning ahead" and assumed the funds would
While the studies and figures may look grim, John Slenker,
the State Labor Department's regional economist in Buffalo,
believes there are plenty of jobs for teenagers in the area.
Restaurants, especially those with outdoor patios, parks
and retail outlets are where the majority of teen jobs are
every summer, and all experience turnover, even in a depressed
economy, Slenker said.
"Teens can still find their niche this summer. It's tighter
than it has been, but the jobs are still out there," Slenker
Six Flags Darien Lake hires 2,400 people each summer, 55 to
60 percent of whom are under 21, said Eileen Pozda, director
of human resources. While the number of adults and seniors
looking to supplement their income or replace depleted
retirement savings has increased this year, almost any
teenager has a shot at a position, Pozda said.
"I don't care how old you are, if your application is
complete and your dress is a bit nicer than most kids, we'll
hire you," said Pozda.
Deschamps, who filled out more than 10 applications Monday
at Walden Galleria, said he is still holding out for a job,
but may have to delay plans to purchase a car next year.
"I'm trying to be hopeful, but it might be too late now,"
Deschamps said. "Pretty soon, I'm going to have to do anything
I can to get some money."
News Staff Reporter Jazmyn Burton contributed to