Wednesday, September 1, 2021

COVID and job prospects for teens

Over the summer, the country witnessed a sudden, explosive need for workers to fill jobs of all kinds, due largely in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were, or remain, a number of factors that, when combined, have created a complex labor situation for our economy. 

With many consumers severely limiting their shopping, dining, and tourism/recreation habits - or even outright staying home altogether - during the pandemic, many businesses imposed heavy layoffs or even closed their doors for good due to the lack of demand.

When restrictions started to ease as a result of COVID numbers beginning to drop significantly, combined with a general antsyness to get out of the house more after a year-plus of this, demand naturally began to surge. But the workforce was no longer there to support all the demand, and it still isn't.

Fortunately, many teens stepped up over the summer where many adults chose to - or were forced to, due to economic circumstances or health concerns beyond their control - walk away for a while.      

A brief blurb appearing on the front page of the Business section of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on July 7, 2021, explains the rise of teenage labor during the summer:

EMPLOYMENT: Teens step up as employers struggle to fill jobs

The owners of restaurants, amusement parks and retail shops, many of them desperate for workers, are sounding a note of gratitude this summer: Thank goodness for teenagers. As the U.S. economy bounds back with unexpected speed from the pandemic recession and customer demand intensifies, high-school-age kids are filling jobs that older workers can't - or won't. The result is that teens who are willing to bus restaurant tables or serve as water-park lifeguards are commanding $15, $17 or more an hour, plus bonuses.

The uptick in teen employment has managed to temporarily help a little, but many teens have to return to school. The overall labor situation is going to take more time and effort to fully resolve itself.

In the meantime, where I'm trying to go with this post, is that, if you're a high school student, or even in college, you have an incredible opportunity right now that you can take advantage of. There are so many job vacancies all over the place, in numerous fields and industries - far more vacancies than there typically are under more "normal" economic/labor conditions. Now, more than ever, is the time to really explore what's out there in the world of work and start gaining critical job skills and experience for your resume. Having to return to school after the summer break doesn't have to get in the way of this unique opportunity, either - so many jobs these days require evening, weekend, and holiday hours. Now's the time to break into fields and industries that may otherwise not really be available to you until further down the road. And with wages (along with bonuses, perks, and benefit packages) rising due to demand for workers - that makes this an even sweeter opportunity to earn while you learn.

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