Job-Seeking Teens Exploring Alternative Options

By Staff

June 19, 2009

As teens face one of the bleakest summer job markets in history, some are creating opportunities by volunteering or starting their own businesses. reports that numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate a continued decline of employed teens: In April, 38.1 percent of teens ages 16-19 were in the labor force, whereas 41 percent were employed at the same time the year before.

The numbers reflect the increasing lack of job opportunities for teens, who are now competing with unemployed adults for summer jobs. But the statistics don't take into account the many youth who are volunteering or creating their own businesses.

Eighteen-year-old Tyler Paaverud from Shakopee, Minnesota, for example, started his own landscaping business called Valley Yard Services and now earns about $22 an hour. He hired his younger twin sisters and a few of his friends as well.

"My sisters and I were in the same boat," he told MSNBC. "We didn't go out and look for a job because of how much work you have to do only to get a few dollar bills at the end of the day."

Others have found employment through their families. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's The Patriot News reports that Emily Zagnit, 18, worked the last three years at Regal Heir Horse Farm in Grantville, which her mother manages. And 17-year-old Matt Sutphen on Silver Spring Township works Lawns Unlimited, his family's landscaping business. Similarly, Lindsay Gumma, 17, from Barrington Hills, Illinois, began babysitting her niece and nephew after not being able to find a summer job.

The arrangement has worked out well for everyone. "It's nice to be with my niece and nephew," Gumma told MSNBC, "and I'm helping my sister."

The Norwich Bulletin in Connecticut lists ten ideas for unemployed teens to stay productive this summer, and volunteering is the first suggestion. Many teens are taking that advice to heart: Kira Goldsmith, 15, of Ossining, New York has plans to volunteer at an animal shelter and a center for disadvantaged children.

"I looked in the Penny Saver for jobs," she told MSNBC, "but I thought there are people who needed jobs more than me. I thought volunteering is more worthwhile than getting paid for something."

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