Y our teen is in a bind this summer, and it's putting the squeeze on you. The reason: Hardly anyone, it seems, is hiring. According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for 16- and 17-year-olds rose to almost 30 percent in May, the third highest on record. Blame the tough economy and increases in the minimum wage for keeping teens out of work, experts say. Throw in that high schoolers continue to face stiff competition from older job seekers, and it's no wonder that this is the worst start to the summer hiring season for teens since 1969, said the job placement firm of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Though part-time openings are expected to pick up this month and next, many youths will still come up empty — meaning it could make for a long, boring summer filled with too much texting and video games. What's a teen to do to avoid the unemployment blues?
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Outdoor jobs involving heavy labor or behind-the-scenes jobs in warehouses or in retail inventory are typically not as sought-after by teen job-seekers. "Often many of these unconventional teen jobs will not be found on the job boards," Challenger notes. "Teens will have to go out and find them."
Be an entrepreneur: Grass cutting, car washing, babysitting and dog walking are always good fall-backs when employers aren't hiring. "The summer of 2010 may be remembered as the season of teenage entrepreneurs," said Meridee Maynard, a Northwestern Mutual financial literacy expert.
Find a mentor: Maybe an uncle can teach carpentry skills on a house he's building. Or a family friend who's in sales would love to teach her craft to a young job shadower. Who knows, maybe your 16-year-old will come away with a special talent for woodworking or landscaping.
Volunteer: With school out for summer, many churches, neighborhood groups, food pantries and other nonprofit groups are begging for extra help. Community service work can help develop time management, social and job skills — and that can make a difference when meeting a college admissions officer.
Work on a family project: That stone retaining wall you've been waiting to repair the past two years? The deck that needs staining, or the driveway riddled with cracks and ready for blacktopping? Assign the task to your teen — and possibly a friend or two — and pay them something for tackling the job.
Saving: Finally, parents, on those summer paydays encourage your teen to save at least a third of his paycheck rather than spend every last dime. A little extra money in the bank is not a bad reward for any teen who takes the initiative to keep busy this summer.