As the summer hiring market heats up, small and seasonal businesses may find that they are missing a key demographic for filling positions – youth workers.
Outplacement firm Challenger Gray predicts that youth will gain 1.1 million jobs in 2023, a slight decline from last year’s numbers and the lowest forecast figure since 2011. The group said this spring that youth are back to work at pre-pandemic levels, but warned that many youth willing to take a job are likely already employed.
The unemployment rate for youth ages 16 to 19 rose slightly to 11% in June compared to the previous month, according to Friday’s June jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate fell to 36.3% year-on-year from 42.9% in June 2022.
According to human resources chief Glenn Byrum, this could mean that companies like Grotto Pizza, which rely heavily on youth, have fewer workers available.
At Grotto’s 20 locations in Delaware and Maryland, teenagers make up a little less than a third of the company’s 1,100 employees. They are constantly hiring but are well staffed for this summer, he said.
“They are a critical factor in our success,” Byrum said, adding that both younger workers and J-1 visa workers help staff seasonal beach locations.
“Hiring teenagers is always a process,” he said. “They seem to be much more aware of the flexibility of their jobs, the level of their salary and the work environment itself.”
Byrum described what he said was a common mentality among young workers that emerged from an abundance of summer job opportunities.
“If they don’t like something the employer is asking them to do, even though it’s part of the job, they can just go out and work somewhere else and find another job with the same pay or maybe even better,” he said. “So it keeps us on track to make sure we provide the best work environment possible.”
Byrum said Grotto often hires youth workers who make above minimum wage and incentivizes some to move between locations as seasonal demand fluctuates.
Lexi Mathis, 16, received a raise to work at a location on Grotto Beach during the summer months. She said the company is flexible with her schedule and the extra pay helps her cover travel costs as inflation remains somewhat stubborn.
“I moved here to earn a little more tips. And that was one of the best decisions ever because it was a big raise and then they gave me a small raise,” Mathis said.
Hiring and availability of labor is a constant headache, especially for small business owners.
The dynamics of labor availability and demand have changed in the wake of the pandemic, and owners often struggle to find skilled and unskilled workers to fill positions.
The catering sector is one of those suffering from the lack of workers. The National Restaurant Association expects restaurants to create an additional 500,000 jobs by the end of the year. However, there was only one job seeker for every two vacancies, increasing competition for workers.
Makiah Grindstaff has worked at Famous Toastery in Davidson, North Carolina for more than two years, both during the school year and in the summer. The high school graduate has been saving for several goals and said her pay could be up to $25 an hour, depending on the role she fills at the restaurant and the day of the week.
She and her friends pride themselves on having cash on hand for shopping, eating and driving, Grindstaff said.
“I started driving, and gas is expensive, and I wanted to start saving for college,” she said. “And I just want to have my own money.”