Like many Charlotte-area teenagers, Charlie Tait wanted a summer job that would earn him some extra cash and look good on his resume.
Though the rising senior at South Mecklenburg High School has never had a job, he didn't expect it would be so difficult to find one.
"I know the economy is not exactly the best for getting a job right now, but I figured someone would want to hire me," Tait said.
Seven applications and no callbacks later, Tait is beginning to realize what many economists and employers have known since 2008: In this less-than-promising economy, the number of job seekers far exceeds available jobs, and to get hired, you often need a personal connection.
Last summer, nearly 30 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds in North Carolina were unemployed during the summer months, according to a study by Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies. That figure exceeded the national youth unemployment rate by nearly 6 percent. This summer, economists say they are not optimistic teens will see any improvement.
But John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies Ltd. in Chapel Hill, said these figures only tell part of the story.
"During any recession, young adults tend to be hit really hard," he said. "Unemployment tends to fall unequally on different age groups."
Unemployment -- even if only for a few months -- can have lasting effects on young adults' long-term career potential and salaries.
"Young people tend to be at a disadvantage in the labor market. They have the least experience, fewer contacts, all those sorts of things," he said. "The odds are just stacked against them."
This can ring especially true in the rural areas of North Carolina, which have been hit even harder by the recession.
When young adults can't find jobs, Quinterno said, it can delay the skills, training and resources they normally gain early on in their careers.
The decline is especially troubling for teens for whom college may be out of reach, leaving them increasingly idle and with few options to earn wages and job experience.
Natalie Woodcock, a rising Indiana University sophomore and East Meck graduate, began searching for a summer job in early May.
Woodcock, like Tait, was hoping to gain job experience and earn money to help pay her rent next year.
After submitting nearly 30 applications to local grocery stores, ice cream shops and restaurants and receiving no calls back, Woodcock considered giving up.
"It was really discouraging," she said. "I figured out of 30 places I would get one callback."
Woodcock was finally able to find a job at Pike's Old Fashioned Soda Shoppe, located next to her father's office building, after he spoke with the owner.
"It seems like you really have to have a connection to get a job here," she said.
With the economy still struggling to recover, employers looking to hire for the summer have been flooded by applications, including many from seasoned workers.
The YMCA of Greater Charlotte employs nearly 700 in summer camp programs, mostly// teenagers, said Liz Godwin, the Y's associate director of youth programs.
But in recent years, the application process has become increasingly competitive.
"We are definitely seeing an increase in not only high school or college students, but maybe teachers and older folks looking for summer employment," she said. "The competition has drastically increased in the summer."
Marc Zimmerman, general manager of Fuel Pizza in Park Road Plaza, estimates he receives at least one application each day.
Casey Malone, assistant manager of Which Wich Superior Sandwiches in Park Towne Village, says his applications are up, too. Starting each May, he receives an influx from high school and college students. The store is hiring, but many new hires are friends of current employees.
Despite the grim prospects, Tait's not giving up his job hunt yet.
"I want the experience of having a job so eventually I would have something to put down on my resume," he said.
His next plan of attack: applying to multiple stores in five Charlotte malls.
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