Forecast for teen summer job market: Mostly sunny

April 25, 2012: 9:20 AM ET

Increased hiring, less competition from older workers, and a new government push all point to better prospects for teens this year.

FORTUNE -- If your teenage kids are yearning to earn some pocket money or save up for college, here's some happy news. Companies are stepping up their summer hiring.

This year's wages will hold steady with last year's at an average of $10.90 an hour. Moreover, most hiring managers (57%) say a teen's greatest competition for a job will come from other high school and college students. That's a six-percentage-point increase over the past four years, when teenagers competed against older, more experienced candidates more often. Apparently, many of those erstwhile applicants have either found other work since last summer or have given up looking.

So says a new survey from Snagajob, an online employment network for hourly job seekers and employers. About three in 10 (29%) of the roughly 1,000 hiring managers polled said it will be "easy" for teens to find a summer job this year, up markedly from 2010 and 2011.

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Some of the gains seem to be coming from a federal program called Summer Jobs +, run by the U.S. Department of Labor. Noting that unemployment in the 16-to-24 age group exceeded 50% last July (the month when youth employment typically peaks), the DOL put out a call to employers to hire at least 250,000 kids this year.

With technical support donated by Google (GOOG), LinkedIn (LNKD), Facebook, and other tech high-fliers, the feds created the Summer Jobs Plus Bank, a website that connects companies in search of summer help with teens looking for work. Among the companies who have added seasonal openings to the database so far: UPS (UPS), Bank of America (BAC), Gap Inc. (GPS), CVS Caremark (CVS), Starbucks (SBUX), Viacom (VIA), and AT&T (T).

Note to teens who want to boost their chances of getting one of those jobs: Shawn Boyer, CEO of Snagajob, points out that hiring managers in his firm's survey said that the most important trait they want in applicants is "the ability to work a schedule the employer needs" (translation: no whining about working nights and weekends).

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The second most-desired attribute, these hiring managers said, is "a positive attitude." In an encouraging bit of news for kids who have never held a job before, only about one-quarter (26%) of employers rated "previous experience" as very important for teen hires.

One more thing: Don't procrastinate. "Despite the overall brighter summer jobs picture, teens who want a job should be aggressive and start looking right away," says Boyer. According to the survey, employers expect to finish the lion's share (79%) of summer hiring by the end of May.

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About This Author
Anne Fisher
Anne Fisher
Contributor, Fortune

Anne Fisher has been writing "Ask Annie," a column on careers, for Fortune since 1996, helping readers navigate booms, recessions, changing industries, and changing ideas about what's appropriate in the workplace (and beyond). Anne is the author of two books, Wall Street Women (Knopf, 1990) and If My Career's on the Fast Track, Where Do I Get a Road Map? (William Morrow, 2001).

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