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Inland Employement Numbers Better Than Expected
Inland Employement Numbers Better Than Expected

Summer job market heats up

While it might not be a great year for summer jobs, there are some signs that 2014 might be better than the past few years for young people seeking temporary work.

Unemployment continues to drop, and that could be a good sign for high school and college students who are looking for a temporary job this summer.

About two million more people nationwide between the ages of 16 and 24 were expected to be working in April and May compared with one year ago, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Whether that trend extends into the Inland Empire remains to been seen.

The region’s 9.3 percent unemployment rate is still well above California’s, at 8.1 percent, and the 6.3 percent federal jobless rate. That might not bode well for hiring this summer in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, which is recovering from the recession at a slower clip than other metropolitan region’s in the state.

At best, summer hiring in San Bernardino County will be up two to three percent in San Bernardino County this year, which would be a decent season but hardly a spectacular one, according to one county official.

“We expect to see more summer hiring this year than we have in the past few years, but probably not as big an increase as we’ll see in other [metropolitan] areas,” said Sandy Harmsen, executive director of the San Bernardino County Workforce Investment Board. “As long as the job rate keeps going up we know we’re headed in the right direction.”

Summer hiring in San Bernardino County is expected to get a boost this year from a program the Board of Supervisors approved last month. Using funds provided by the U.S. Department of Labor and administered through the California Workforce Development Agency, the county will pay employers to hire county youths from low-income families or from families on government assistance.

Riverside County is also participating in the program. Both counties will receive $3 million in federal assistance, Harmsen said.

Two years ago the program generated between 500 and 600 jobs for underprivileged youths in both counties. This year it could create between 1,500 and 1,700 jobs, while teaching some young people valuable job skills and maybe give them a head start on landing a permanent job, Harmsen said.

“Our goals isn’t just to get people employed for the summer,” Harmsen said. “We’re always trying to get people full-time work.”

Anyone who lands a summer job this year, in the Inland Empire or anywhere else, probably will be paid well for their efforts. The average wage for summer workers in 2014 is expected to be $10.39 an hour, nearly 30 percent above President Obama’s proposed increase in the federal minimum wage, from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.

Employees in the hospitality industry are expected to earn the highest wage this summer, at $10.89 an hour, followed by food-service workers at $10.43 an hour and retail workers at $10.07 an hour, according to snagajob.com, a website for job-seekers and employers in the hourly wage industry.

Seventy-four percent of the employers surveyed by the website in its annual summer hiring report said they expect to hire extra workers this year, and only 14 percent said they expect to hire fewer employees than they took on last summer.

Seventy-four percent of those businesses who expect to hire summer workers said they expect to fill those positions by the end of this month, while seven percent said they have already filled those positions, according to snagajob.com’s annual survey of summer hiring in the United States.

As it usually does, retail will probably provide the most summer jobs this year, followed closely by the service industry, said Sarah Cullins, vice president of sales Corporate Resource Services, a Rancho Cucamonga-based job placement firm that operates five offices in the Inland Empire.

“I think we’re going to place a lot of people this summer and be busier than we have been the last few years,” Cullins said. “Most of the [employers] we work with say they expect it to be a good year. Because it’s the Inland Empire, a lot of those jobs will be in warehouses, where the retailers need to have things moved around.”

Nationally, last summer was a solid one for hiring, and improving on it won’t be easy: employment for people 16 to 24 years old rose by 2.1 million, to 19.7 million, compared with 2012, according to the bureau of labor statistics.

Another factor that points to more summer hiring is the overall state of the economy, which added 288,000 jobs in April. That was about 70,000 more jobs than were expected to be added that month, and it dropped the national unemployment rate from 6.7 to 6.3 percent, the lowest jobless rate since the start of the recession.

The bureau of labor statistics also revised the number of jobs added in March from 192,000 to 203,000, adding to the perception that the job recovery is gathering steam.

Job-seekers in general also say they’re getting more confident about finding a job soon, and that could be a good sign for the summer job market.

Startwire.com, a website that helps people organize their job search, reported that its Jobs Search Confidence Index rose sharply in March, to 53.69, up from 50.95 in February. Any score of 50 or more means job seekers expect to find a job within 45 days. Below 50 means the opposite, and the index has been trending upward slightly since the start of the year.

Any forecasts about summer job hiring need to take into account that national unemployment among young people is close to 20 percent, and it will take a lot of jobs to lower that number, said Tina Sewell, regional manager with Manpower in Palm Desert.

“In the Coachella Valley, it’s still difficult for people 16 to 19 years old to find a job,” said Sewell, a member of the Riverside County Workforce Investment Board. “I agree that this year will be better than last year for summer hiring, but we’re still looking at a slow recovery.”

Young people have a more difficult time finding work now because they’re competing with adults who have more experience better job skills.

“A lot of employers prefer to hire older people because they tend to be more reliable,” Sewell said. “They’re also willing to take a lower wage because the job market has been so tight. That’s a result of the recession. It’s still a very tough market.”

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