- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Area teenagers are getting their first lesson in the U.S. economy: They are finding it hard to secure a summer job, despite recent employment growth.

U.S. employers added 248,000 positions in May, the fifth straight month of job creation. But as hiring picks up, many teens are having to compete with adults for entry-level jobs.

When high schools break for the summer, a torrent of seasonal job hunters descend on local businesses and job-placement programs. Popular places to apply include the Montgomery County Recreation Centers, Six Flags America and government-funded programs such as Passport to Work, which serves District residents.

Montgomery County’s summer camp program hires about 250 people, including teens and adults.

Like many employers, the program has seen a rise in applications for a limited number of jobs.

“Even today, I had three or four people who called,” Mrs. Peters said. “If I had to ballpark it I would say [we received] double what we hire.”

Six Flags America has interviewed 5,000 people this year but hired only 2,600, said Chris Haean, director of marketing for the Upper Marlboro amusement park.

Mr. Haean said there were slightly more applications this year than last.

Teen hiring appears tight throughout the region.

The District’s Passport to Work program, which places teens in summer jobs, fielded 9,200 applicants for 5,000 summer positions, said Diana Johnson, spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Employment Services.

More than 1,000 of the applicants are college students.

“We are seeing a lot more college students registering through our program,” Ms. Johnson said, an indication that they, too, are having trouble finding work.

Registering with Passport to Work does not guarantee a job.

Although the number of applications has risen over the past two years, the number of jobs available has dropped from a peak of about 10,000 in the early 1990s.

Ms. Johnson said businesses that offer entry-level jobs have not been expanding, and more of those positions are taken by adults.

“Even though the District is not doing badly as far as the economy is concerned, we aren’t seeing a large amount of requests yet to hire people for the summer,” said Ms. Johnson.

Mr. Haean from Six Flags agrees: “As good as the economy is getting, there are still people who are looking for jobs.”

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