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Economy gives teens angst

5 November 2008 One Comment

Story by Tyler Sipe

California’s unemployment numbers continue to show teenagers are among the hardest hit in the flailing economy.

The state’s Employment Development Department reported in August that teenage unemployment rate — among 16 to 19 year olds — was 21.9 percent, an increase of more than 4 percent from the same time last year.

Fremont resident Phuong Nguyen, 18, said she has been actively looking for a job since she graduated high school in June.  She said she no longer wants to depend on her parents, and needs extra income to pay for school expenses and leisure activities.

“My parents are getting on my case,” said Nguyen, who was talking with friends outside of class at Ohlone Community College in Fremont’s Mission San Jose on Monday afternoon.  “I have a lot of ‘I owe you’s’ for friends and my sisters.”

Nguyen has applied to a half-dozen jobs in the service sector, sending her resume to retailers like Target and fruit-smoothie company Jamba Juice.  Five months later, she remains jobless and has yet to receive a single callback from a perspective employer.

Overall, the state unemployment rate of 7.7 percent remained the same in August and September.  However, there was 2.2 percent gain from August 2007 to the same month this year, the largest annual rate increase since July 1991, according to EDD.

Many Fremont area teenagers say they are weathering the storm by continuing to rely on family, with future job prospects in the state looking less rosy for teenagers.

Job growth in the state is expected to stagnate in the fourth quarter of 2008 and first quarter of 2009, according to the independent economic research group UCLA Anderson Forecast.

The forecast estimates the California labor market will not improve until the real estate industry begins to turn around.

Michael Daoudi, owner of Mr. Mikey’s Country Store, said he hasn’t hired a new employee at his downtown Niles convenient store in more than a year.  He said with the weak economy, there’s been less of a turnover.

“Teenagers are reliable employees because they have the energy and they want the paycheck,” said Daoudi, who opened the store in 2002.  “But we won’t be making any hires with the way the economy is going.”

Daoudi is not alone.

Businesses nation wide continue to cutback or institute hiring freezes, a partial reaction to a decrease in consumer spending and increased unemployment which nationally was 6.1 percent in September.

Yvonka Headley, a counselor who heads Ohlone Community College’s Student Success Center, said students should practice their interviewing skills, polish their resumes and network with people in industries of interest in order to become more marketable.

“Employers are more likely to hire teens who have a proven work ethic,” said Headley, who councils about four students a month on career building and opportunities.  “I encourage students to intern and gain valuable work experience.”

Castro Valley residents Justin Lalor, 19, and Alex Omalza, 21, spent a portion of one Monday afternoon strolling down Fremont’s busy Paseo Padre Parkway, looking for job wanted signs in area business windows.

Lalor quit his job at a local restaurant that he worked at for the past seven months.  He said in the past, he had no difficulty finding work.  However, he admits the current labor force is a lot tighter and more competitive.

“It’s scary right now,” Lalor said. “But I feel pretty confident I’ll find work.  It might just take a little longer.”

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