Sat, 23 Sep 2023

WASHINGTON D.C.: Due to one of the tightest labor markets in decades, teenagers, who have been vital for filling summer season positions at restaurants, ice cream stands, amusement parks and camps, are gaining more sway, with a greater range of jobs to choose from at higher wages.

General Manager Cory Hutchinson, Funtown Splashtown USA, an amusement park in southern Maine, said he predicts he will hire some 350 workers this summer, including many local high school students.

"We literally do not have enough people to staff the place seven days a week and into the evenings," he said, adding that this summer, Funtown Splashtown will only be open six days a week, and will close at 6 p.m., instead of 9 p.m.

According to government data, in April some 34 percent of Americans aged 16 to 19 were employed, compared with 30 percentage four years ago, the last summer before the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Mike Morrison, owner of RideAway Adventures on Cape Cod, which offers kayak, bike and paddle-board rentals and tours, said finding enough teen workers has not been a challenge.

"They are not washing dishes and they get to be outside and active," Morrison said, adding he usually pays new teen hires $15 per hour, the state's minimum wage, but he increases the pay of hard working teens by as much as 50 cents per hour toward the end of July to help keep them through the end of summer.

Maxen Lucas, an 18-year-old graduating senior at Lincoln Academy in Maine, whose first job at 15 was at a summer camp washing dishes, said young workers have more choices now.

"After COVID settled down, everyone was being paid more," said Lucas, who will enter Maine Maritime Academy in the autumn.

To ease the labor crunch, some states are planning to loosen restrictions to allow teen workers to work more hours and, in some cases, more hazardous jobs. However, these moves that have been criticized by labor rights groups.

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