Hot job market awaits America’s teens as employers sweat

WASHINGTON (AP) — Mary Jane Riva, CEO of Pizza Factory, has a message of caution for her customers this summer: Prepare to wait longer for your Hawaiian pie or calzone.

Pizza Factory’s 100 West Coast locations are desperately short of workers. With about 12 employees per store, they’re barely half-staffed — just when many more Americans are venturing into restaurant chains like his.

“Days of 15-minute orders,” Riva said, “may not be happening anymore.”

Talk to other employers in America’s vast hospitality industry — hotels, restaurants, public pools, ice cream parlors, pick-your-own strawberry farms — and you’ll hear a similar complaint. They cannot fill many of their summer jobs because the number of vacancies far exceeds the number of people willing and able to fill them, even with higher salaries.

Help may be coming: School is out for the summer, pushing millions of high school and college students away for the next three months. Riva, for her part, hopes to receive more job applications from students looking to spend some money during the summer.

Teenagers are in an exceptionally dominant position – at least those of them who want jobs. Researchers from the Center for Labor Markets and Policy at Drexel University predicted in a report last month that an average of 33% of young people aged 16 to 19 will be employed each month from June to August this year, the rate the highest since 34% in the summer of 2007.

Among them is Samuel Castillo, a 19-year-old four-year veteran of Miami’s Summer Jobs Connect program who has already built an impressive resume. In a former job with the program, he worked in a legislative office, recording voter complaints. His first summer, he saved $900 to buy parts to build his own computer.

Now he’s studying computer engineering technology in college and working the Jobs Connect program again this summer, earning $15 an hour teaching other students how to manage money.

“The purpose of the job is to pay my bills,” he said. “School costs money. Books cost money.

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