Teens hit the job market

September 19, 2004|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

For seven weeks, 15-year-old Shawayna Morel was out of bed by 7 a.m. and at her first summer job by 8. Her workday ended at 4 p.m. She found adjusting to a work schedule wasn't easy.

"Some mornings, I was really tired and I didn't feel like going in," she said.

The solution: Shawayna ended her late summer nights and starting going to bed early. She said she realized it was worth the sacrifice after she received her first paycheck.

"It felt good," she said. "I got a checking account and started putting my money in the bank."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Shawayna was not the only newcomer to the summer job market. Bureau statistics show that 2.3 million 16- to 24-year-olds joined the work force. The influx brought the number of employed 16- to 24-year-old workers to 21.4 million between April and July, according to bureau information.


Shawayna was hired as a junior-team counselor at the Boys and Girls Club of Washington County on Pennsylvania Avenue. For the first time, she said she didn't rely on her mother for money. As the checks started coming in, she began making her own financial decisions. Her first goal was to start shopping on a budget.

"Before, when I shopped with my mom, I'd get a $50 pair of jeans," Shawayna said.

Putting in a full day's work also left Shawayna with a more mature perspective on the value of money.

"When it's my money, I'm a lot more picky about how much I spend," she said.

A fashion-conscious teen, Shawayna said she favors student school uniforms to help reduce peer pressure to wear brand-name clothing. She said she believes student uniforms might help teens save money on clothing.

After watching older residents in his neighborhood struggle to cut the grass on their lawns, Tyrone Wheeler decided to fill a need, which resulted in a summer job for himself.

"I wanted to help them, he said. "I was willing to cut their yards for free if they couldn't pay me."

With a small business plan and a $120 loan from his father, the 16-year-old North Hagerstown High School student bought a lawn mower, a weed cutter and shears to start his own landscaping business.

"After I cut one yard, the customers just kept coming," Tyrone said.

Next, he developed a client schedule. He was up and out the door by 10 a.m. every Saturday.

"I'd cut two or three yards, take a break, and then come back and cut the rest of them," Tyrone said.

Soon, word-of-mouth brought a steady stream of paying clients, he said.

Tyrone, the only boy in a family of four children, cut lawns in the evenings and on weekends and held down a full-time job as a counselor at the Boys and Girls Club.

Charging $20 a yard plus money from tips, he earned about $600 this summer cutting lawns, he said. Between both jobs, the extra money covered all of his personal expenses.

"I saved it," Tyrone said. "I put half away and I used the other half to buy my school supplies."

By pitching in, Tyrone said his parents were able to spend more money on his older sister in college and his two twin sisters, both 15, who still are at home.

According to Department of Labor economist John Stinson, Tyrone represents 433,000 16- to 24-year-olds who were self-employed this year based on a July 2003-04 youth employment report.

However, youth unemployment has increased across the board in the last four years. The numbers are derived from information gathered in a monthly survey of 60,000 U.S. households, economist Randy Ilg said.

In July, 17.8 million white 16- to 24-year-olds worked summer jobs compared to 2.2 million blacks in the same age group.

While a significant gap, the figures represent the total population of each group, Stinson said.

According to the Labor Department's employment population ratio, nearly 63 percent of the nation's 28.4 million white youths were employed this summer, compared to 42.4 percent of the nation's 5.2 million black youths.

Both Shawayna and Tyrone still work part-time jobs as assistants with the Boys and Girls Club after school and both said they hope to build larger saving accounts.

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