Softer summer job market faces N.H. teens

High school and college students looking for summer work in New Hampshire this year may find themselves struggling to secure a job in a more difficult employment market.

One of those students looking for a job is Bill Connolly, a 19-year-old Nashua resident and student at Bentley College, who found himself still out of work, some two months after starting his search.

“I’ve applied for internships at several financial companies and marketing firms, then a few jobs at restaurants, but have been unsuccessful in all my attempts to find employment,” he said. “I think that because the economy is in such a downward spiral that companies have to cut back on internship programs, and restaurants have to keep smaller staffs because they can’t afford anything else. It seems like wherever I go, the place says they are already fully staffed for the summer.”

Last summer, he said, “it was much easier to find employment.”

According to Marty Capodice, an economist with the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security, even though New Hampshire’s overall unemployment rate stands at about 4 percent – 1.5 percentage points lower than the national rate – it’s not surprising that many students are having a tough time finding a summer job.

In fact, according to a study by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, the difficulty may be historic. According to the study, a little over a third of teens aged 16 to 19 are likely to be employed this summer — the smallest percentage since the government began tracking teenage work in 1948.

According to Capodice, traditionally when the economy is weaker, adults tend to take jobs that, in the past, were considered to be for younger people. Adults who take the jobs are usually forced to do so either because one job does not provide an adequate income alone or because they have lost their job and essentially look for any employment they can.

As a result, there are fewer job opportunities for young people, said Capodice, who said the difficulties are likely to be greater in northern New Hampshire, where the economy has been particularly weak.

“I’ve noticed that many of the places I have applied to already have a group of adults working there,” said Stephanie Pintal, another Nashua resident and junior at Stonehill College. “The places I go to have dinner used to have hosts or waiters that were my age, and sometimes they were even friends of mine. This summer, adults are working the jobs teenagers used to. Many of these places are where I attempted, unsuccessfully, to find a job too. I ended up going back to the job I had last summer, which doesn’t pay as well as a waitressing job would, because it’s so difficult to find employment elsewhere.”

Teenagers and college students are less likely to be hired for a position over an adult because they typically have less experience. Adults also tend to be able to work longer hours and take full-time jobs, so it’s easier and more cost-efficient for employers to hire one person to work longer hours than three people to split up the same block of time.

And since college students usually are only looking for summer employment, employers may often reason that come September, they’ll have to find someone new to hire and train.

Teens also may be finding it difficult to get a job because there are fewer of them available. The typical jobs students commonly seek out in New Hampshire are in construction, at hotels and restaurants and in retail. This summer, however, as businesses in those industries struggle to meet sales margins, there are fewer openings.

For example, the rising cost of food is forcing restaurants to raise prices, which result in fewer people dining out. As a result, they don’t need as many employees. The same reasoning applies to retailers.

Summer opportunities at construction companies — which often hire students — also are looking bleak this summer, with the general slowdown in that industry.

Despite the difficulty teens may face, there are ways for them to find work. Employers suggest that individuals seeking jobs in retail or food apply early and apply often. Teen job-seekers also should try to search for seasonal occupations, such as camp counselor, concession stand worker and lifeguard.

In New Hampshire, Capodice suggests that college students leave home for the summer and talk to businesses in areas like Hampton Beach and the White Mountains that cater to vacationers. Those businesses are more likely to require more help.

Rachel Hughes may be reached at