Daniel Sparer, a 17-year-old who will be a senior at Syosset High School this fall, doubts he’ll find any work this summer—and he’s not alone. Across Long Island, an increasing number of teens and young adults are out of work and struggling to earn a bit of pocket money now that school’s out.
Teen unemployment rate is more than double the overall joblessness on LI, which is typical. But many young people are having an even harder time than usual because employers are more likely to hire adults who need a job and can work beyond the summer season, experts say. While there are programs to help youths find jobs, unemployment has left many teens feeling useless.
“I don’t have any money to do anything,” said Sparer, who will be attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the fall. “Right now, my summer is very dull. I don’t have any responsibilities.”
The New York State Department of Labor reported that unemployment among 16 to 19 year olds in Nassau rose from 17.1 percent in 2005 to 20.5 percent in 2010 and from 14.7 to 18.3 percent in Suffolk for the same time period.
According to the labor department’s jobs report for May, about 7.4 percent of total Long Islanders are unemployed, up from 6.7 percent earlier this year. New York State’s rate is 8.6 percent, as opposed to 8.2 percent nationally.
Shital Patel, a labor market analyst for LI, said the statistics are a reality check for high school and college students.
“There has been an increase in unemployment amongst teenagers on Long Island, which is typical of a recession,” she said. “Both the federal and state government have initiatives to help youths find jobs.”
In December 2011, Gov. Andrew Cuomo created the Youth Work’s Program, which benefits businesses that hire underprivileged youth. The program is active in nine areas of New York, including Brookhaven and Hempstead.
“Those areas have the highest youth unemployment on the Island,” said Leo Rosales, spokesman for the state Department of Labor. “We want to combat the unaccountable, high youth unemployment rate in Long Island.”
Rosales said the program takes place in only Hempstead and Brookhaven because together, both have a 21.5 percent unemployment rate for youths. He hopes the program will expand in the future.
Summer jobs have become a tradition for teens and are viewed as positive experiences that provide skills and an understanding of the work force. But with few opportunities available, many are forced to rely on their parents for spending money.
“It’s harder to become independent for yourself because you have to rely on other people,” said Plainview resident David Matthews, 17, who will be attending Stony Brook University in the fall. “It’s easier for adults to keep a full-time job than a student working part-time. It’s better for the employer.”
Mario Saccente of the Long Island Chapter of the New York Restaurant Association said restaurants and retail stores are more likely to hire adults because of their experience, availability and better means of transportation. He says that teens’ chances of finding a job this summer are “very weak.”
“It definitely diminishes their chances,” said Saccente. “Right now, if they’re going to get a position, it will be as a food runner or bus boy.”