travel and leisure industries

It's not too late for teens to find summer jobs

May 29, 2013: 1:15 PM ET

Most employers have already hired their seasonal help, but teens who are still looking for work may find that persistence pays off.

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FORTUNE -- The current U.S. crop of 14-to-18-year-olds is nothing if not optimistic, according to Junior Achievement's latest annual job survey of 1,025 teens. The poll found that two-thirds want to work this summer and, of that group, 92% said they were confident they will, even though more than one third (38%) have no work experience, and youth unemployment stands at a record 24% -- about three times the rate for all age groups.

The top three job-hunting methods the kids planned to use: networking through their parents' connections (47%); checking online help-wanted ads (33%); and looking in store windows for "now hiring" signs (32%).

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Memorial Day, summer's unofficial start, has come and gone, and most employers have already hired their summer help, so those who haven't landed a job yet may be discouraged. But it's too soon to give up, for three reasons. First, seasonal hiring is up this year. Not only do employers have more summer openings to fill, but they're also rehiring fewer repeat summer employees than in years past -- in part because many of those folks were adults who were making do between jobs and have since found year-round work.

The second reason to keep looking: As the economic recovery picks up (and the stock market's fresh heights make many people feel richer than they've felt in years), consumers seem ready to go out and have some fun. "Increased summer travel is likely to boost hiring across several sectors, including leisure and hospitality, food service, retail, and entertainment," says John Challenger, CEO of Chicago outplacement and career-development firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Challenger points to new Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing that the leisure and hospitality industries have already added 729,000 workers this spring, due to rising consumer demand, while restaurants and bars hired about 202,000 employees in April alone.

"For young job seekers on break from high school or college, travel and leisure businesses offer a wealth of opportunities," Challenger says. "It's not too late to find openings, particularly for those who live near -- or can temporarily relocate to -- popular travel destinations." Orlando, for instance, "not only has the major theme parks, but water parks, hotels and motels, T-shirt and souvenir shops, restaurants and bars, and so on," he notes. Can't move to Florida? Not to worry: "All over the country, there are similar areas that need summer help, like Branson, Mo., or the Wisconsin Dells."

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The third reason why teens should stay optimistic is that "one thing all these places have in common is high turnover," Challenger adds. "Even if you haven't found anything by mid-June, don't hesitate to go back to employers where you already applied. Chances are good that one or more of the people they did hire at the start of the season hasn't worked out, and they will need to find replacements."

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