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Teens struggle to find summer work

For a while, Katie Wallin was stoked. The Rosemount High School student had two summer jobs lined up and was ready to make some money.

Then she got a letter telling her she had been un-hired from one of the two positions. Her friend, who was hired by the same company, received a similar letter.

While she had something to fall back on, Wallin still was frustrated. She has no idea why she'd been dropped before she ever worked a day.

"They might have reached critical mass and had to let us go because they couldn't afford to pay us," Wallin said.

Wallin and her friend aren't alone in their frustrations. Dakota County Workforce Centers director Mark Jacobs said teens all over are struggling to find summer work. And those who do find jobs are getting fewer hours and less pay.

"It's a tougher job market for teens because there are so many adults out there looking for work," said Jacobs.

The unemployment rate for teens, age 19 or under, in Minnesota was 13.7 percent in 2008. Rachel Vilsack, a regional analyst for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, said 13.7 percent is the highest unemployment rate among all age categories.

The teen workforce participation rate in Minnesota was 54 percent in 2008, compared to 67 percent in 1998, Vilsak said.

Several factors are affecting the summer job market for teens. Many companies aren't hiring or are hiring less summer help. And out of work adults have taken many of the jobs that teens usually take.

Wallin said she started her summer job search in December. She applied at a variety of places including coffee shops, retail stores, swimming pools and summer camps.

"It was difficult to get interviews," said Wallin. "A lot of my applications went off into cyberspace and I heard nothing back."

Jonathan Nutzmann, an RHS graduate who is currently a freshman at the University of Minnesota, got lucky this summer. He will intern at the same company he worked for last summer. However, he said many of his friends have had a hard time finding summer employment.

"Most of my friends at the U of M and locally here in Rosemount have had very tough times finding jobs and end up applying pretty much anywhere that is hiring, simply because they need the money to pay for school," said Nutzmann.

While difficult, getting a job isn't impossible. Yende Anderson, the youth services provider for Dakota County Work Force Centers, said jobs are out there. She recommended teens make themselves as available as possible and get out and network.

Anderson held a seminar on summer-job hunting at several county library branches. She said she had a good turnout.

"I think it went well," said Anderson.

The seminars covered a variety of topics including interviewing tips, where to look for open positions and how to make the best of each opportunity.

Anderson said a good place for teens to find information on finding summer jobs is