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Stores struggling to hire adults bring on more teens to work Black Friday, holiday rush

Stores struggling to hire adults bring on more teens to work Black Friday, holiday rush


Stores struggling to hire adults bring on more teens to work Black Friday, holiday rush

Black Friday: How the start of the holiday shopping season got its nameBlack Friday is one of the busiest shopping days of the year with monster sales and doorbusters. Here’s how it got its name.Staff video, USA TODAYRetailers turn to teens to make up for worker shortages.From October to mid-November, 15- to 19-year-olds made up nearly 20% of all retail hires, up from 9% in 2019.Teens provide a favorable labor pool amid a health crisis that’s keeping many workers on the sidelines.As you hit the stores this holiday season, you may notice something else in large numbers besides doorbuster sale signs: teenage sales associates.Faced with persistent worker shortages, retailers, along with other employers, are turning to teens to fill the gap, much as they did over the summer.“Teen hiring is picking up earlier than usual, particularly in the retail sector,” says Luke Pardue, an economist with Gusto, a payroll processor for small businesses.Employing more teenage workers can provide them an entrée into the workforce and early skills development, economists say. But some also worry it could help pull teens away from a postsecondary education at a time when the pandemic has lowered college enrollment.From October to mid-November, 15- to 19-year-olds made up nearly 20% of all retail hires, up from 9% in 2019, before the COVID-19 crisis, Gusto figures show.Across all industries, 32% of people aged 16 to 19 worked in October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ seasonally adjusted figures. That’s down from a 13-year high of 33.2% in May but it still represents the largest share of teens working in October since 2007.►Your state’s economy:Is it nearing or topping its pre-pandemic levels?Worker shortagesMany businesses are tapping teenagers because they can’t find adults. Job openings reached a record 10.4 million in September. And last month, 49% of small business owners said they had openings they couldn’t fill, down just slightly from the all-time high of 51% the previous month, according to the National Federation of Independent Business.►Plug and play workers: Robot orders by companies surge as labor shortages lingerRising vaccinations and the reopening economy led to a surge in consumer demand over the spring and summer. And holiday sales are projected to grow 8.5% to 10.5% over last year to a record-shattering level, according to the National Retail Federation.Companies, in turn, have announced they’ll hire 940,000 temporary workers over the holiday season, the most since Challenger, Gray & Christmas began tracking the figure in 2012, the outplacement firm says. But those businesses are struggling to meet their targets. Retail hiring in October fell 9% from a year earlier and transportation and warehousing payroll additions fell 17%, Challenger says.Hiring teens to replace adultsTeens provide a favorable labor pool amid a health crisis that’s improving but still keeping many workers on the sidelines, says economist James Marple of TD Economics. They generally don’t have to care for children who may still be distance-learning at home. Unlike adults, most teens didn’t receive generous unemployment benefits or stimulus checks that may have dissuaded some people from accepting job offers.►Beating the supply snags: Avoid holiday shortages by hitting Black Friday sales and buying lightly used giftsAnd since COVID is a disease that poses far more risks to older people, “They probably feel little safer,” Marple says.In 2020, 40% of employed teens worked in hospitality and 25% worked in retail, BLS figures show.Teens represent the only age group whose share of members working or looking for jobs has increased from before the pandemic, According to BLS. All other groups’ labor force participation rates have declined.Although the percentage of teenagers with jobs has edged down since July, 5.1 million 16- to 19-year-olds worked in October on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, up from 4.8 million in 2020 and 5 million in 2018 and 2019.Many teens stayed on after their summer stints, says Sara Gordon, vice president, and head of customer success at staffing firm Adecco, which sometimes places 18- and 19-year-olds in jobs. Others who are typically brought on during Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks have been enticed to take positions earlier by higher wages and more flexible schedules, she says.Rising wagesWages for teenagers working at small- to midsize retailers have risen from $9.40 in March to $10.33 in November, Gusto says. During that period, larger retailers, as well as warehouse and call-center companies, have boosted entry-level pay from a range of $10 to $12 to as much as $15 to $25, Gordon says.“For 18- and 19-year-olds, that can be a very powerful fact,” Gordon says.►Take that, Dollar Tree? Dollar Tree bumps up prices to $1.25 for most itemsAt the Pentagon City Mall in Arlington, Virginia, Genesis Yes-Herrera, 18, recently left a sales associate job paying $11.75 an hour at a women’s clothing store to take a similar part-time position at a rival store in the shopping center that started her at $15.Yes-Herrera, who lives in Hyattsville, Maryland, and graduated from high school earlier this year, is using her income to pay rent to her parents and save up to buy a car.“I really love getting into clothes,” Yes-Herrera said during a break from greeting patrons at the front of the store. “School is not for me.”Employers are also carving out shifts that start later in the day to accommodate college students’ classes, Gordon says.A couple of months ago, high school senior Anthony Fernandez, 17, took a part-time job at a CVS pharmacy in Arlington, in part because the store is allowing him to adjust his shifts or take a day off, depending on his classes.“They’re very flexible,” says Fernandez. He’s saving most of his salary so he can earn a college degree to become an electrician.Some employers are making the most of the teen hiring trend.Sugapeach Chicken & Fish Fry, in North Liberty, Iowa, typically hires one or two high school students for the summer, says owner Chad Simmons. This year, Simmons brought on four – making teens a majority of his seven staffers – and they have stayed on for the fall or have been replaced by other high school students.One works 20 hours a week while two each put in five hours weekly and another is available for relief and emergencies. The two who log five hours handle specific tasks, like putting specialty sauces in cups, mopping or helping with the drive-thru.“We traditionally go after more experienced workers,” he says, but they’ve been tough to find. Iowa’s unemployment rate is 3.9%. below the nation’s 4.6%.►Great Resignation ‘vicious cycle’: As more people quit, exhausted colleagues also head for the exitHe says he has raised the hourly wage of his teenage employees from about $8.50 to about $11, but that’s still below the up to $15 that he pays more experienced employees. Local college fraternity members mentor the young workers, stressing the importance of showing up on time and dressing appropriately, Simmons says.Such early work experience can be a positive for teens, providing skills and values that bolster careers.“I think there is some empirical evidence that early work experience pays off in terms of future wages and employment,” as long as it doesn’t replace postsecondary education, Marple says.Student truckers see opportunity in supply chainAs the US seeks to alleviate its straining supply chain, one primary need is for more trained truck drivers. Promises of high pay and instant job offers has caused a surge in new students at truck driving academies across the country. (Nov. 19)APLow-wage jobs forever?Before the pandemic, the share of teens working or looking for jobs had tumbled over two decades from about 50% to just over one-third over as more young people stayed in high school through graduation, enrolled in college or spent more time studying, says Lauren Bauer, a fellow in studies at the Brookings Institution.►Go to college, get paid: These are the most desirable and well-paid college degrees in AmericaNow, Bauer says, she’s concerned because the pandemic has led to a sharp decline in in-person college classes that has triggered a large drop in enrollment. Postsecondary enrollment is down 7.8% this fall compared with fall 2019, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.If retail, restaurant and warehouse jobs supplement a high school and postsecondary education, that’s a good thing, Bauer says.“What we’re concerned with is people” who settle into “low-wage jobs forever.”She says she’ll be looking to see if the share of teens working begins to wane after the holidays, as she hopes it will, or remains elevated.

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