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Summer help-wanted signs are still up

Cary Anne Holton Photography

Megan Tessmer

Megan Tessmer loves her new summer job as a carhop waitress at Sonic Drive-In in Oklahoma City, and she’s happy she was able to find the gig easily despite the grim job market.

“This was the second place I drove by,” said Tessmer, who will be returning to school at the University of Central Oklahoma in the fall to study chemistry. “We’re actually still hiring.”

The job market for temporary summer jobs for high school and college students has yet to revive to pre-recessionary levels, but the picture is brighter than many think it is, depending on the industry. And for those who’ve remained on the sidelines because of dire forecasts, it isn’t too late to score a temporary gig as July, the typical peak for summer hiring, approaches.

There are still jobs available for the hot days ahead, and many of the openings are in clothing stores, manufacturing and fast food outlets.

During the last two summers, Sonic has increased its overall hiring, said Anita Vanderveer, the vice president of people for the company.

“We are hiring,” she said, for everything from servers to positions at the company’s headquarters. “We have a clear strategy to ramp up prior to summer, but we’re always looking for people.”

Indeed, there are tens of thousands of jobs still available on Summer Jobs+, a government program set up earlier this year to help low-income youths get jobs this summer, said Jason Kuruvilla, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Labor. 

Many companies went into the summer employment season ready to hire. Nearly 30 percent of employers had planned to hire workers this summer, up from 21 percent last year, according to a May CareerBuilder forecast. And among the industries looking to add summer jobs, manufacturing topped the list with 45 percent, followed by hospitality with 44 percent, retail with 34 percent and finance at 31 percent.

"Confidence is up among the employers we most closely associate with summer hiring,” said Brent Rasmussen, president of CareerBuilder North America.

Last month, a host of sectors typically related to summer hiring, saw increases in job openings including clothing stores and eating establishments, according to jobs website Snagajob.

“Even though May’s job numbers from the BLS were disappointing overall, there were bright spots in what are considered typical areas for seasonal employment,” said Courtney Moyer, a spokeswoman for Snagajob.

The overall unemployment rate for May was still a disappointing 8.2 percent, with few increases in most industries, other than health care, transportation and warehouses, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But there have been other pockets of opportunities for temporary summer work, Moyer pointed out, “clothing stores, food and beverage stores and restaurants all had gains. Government numbers also showed that 4.39 million teens ages 16 to 19 were employed in May (seasonally adjusted), which is an improvement over last year’s 4.26 million, a 3 percent increase. Also, already this season teens are doing better than last year’s peak summer employment, which typically comes in July and was also recorded at 4.26 million.”

Don’t expect to get rich on the popular summer jobs though. According to Snagajob, retail sales jobs pay about $12 an hour and cashier positions at food outlets pay $9.73.

If you are just starting your summer job search, Moyer offered some tips:

  • Young people cannot apply to five jobs and think that that’s going to be enough. Snagajob recommends, especially at this point in the season, that seasonal job seekers put in upwards of 25 applications. Consider areas that are strong in seasonal hiring such as retail, restaurants and leisure/arts and entertainment.
  • While you should apply to a job following a company’s preferred procedure – online, paper application, etc. – we recommend following up in person no later than a week after applying.
  • Use referrals. Help yourself get out of the application pile by using a personal connection. Maybe you have a friend who has already been hired by a company who can ask that a manager review your application. Lean on parents, friends and neighbors by asking them if they know of any companies that are still hiring.

Bottom line, Moyer stressed, “there is hope.”

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