Small companies are on the lookout for a youthful workforce trying to rent aggressive employees through the summer season

As the hiring market heats up over the summer, small and seasonal businesses may find they are missing a key target audience for hiring – a youth workforce.

Outplacement firm Challenger Gray forecasts that teens will gain 1.1 million jobs in 2023, down slightly from last year’s figures and the lowest forecast since 2011. The group said in the spring that teens were returning to work at pre-pandemic levels, but warned many teens who are ready to take a job are likely already in the workforce.

The unemployment rate for youth ages 16-19 rose slightly to 11% in June from the previous month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Friday June jobs report. Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate fell to 36.3% year-on-year from 42.9% in June 2022.

According to hiring chief Glenn Byrum, this could mean that companies like Grotto Pizza, which rely heavily on youth, have fewer workers available.

At Grotto’s 20 locations in Delaware and Maryland, teenagers make up just under a third of the company’s 1,100 employees. They’re constantly hiring new staff but are well staffed for this summer, he said.

“They are a critical factor in our success,” Byrum said, adding that both younger workers and J-1 Visa employees help fill seasonal beach locations.

“Hiring teenagers is always a process,” he said. “They seem much more self-aware of the flexibility of their job, the level of their salary and the work environment.”

Byrum described what he believed to be a general mentality among young workers that had emerged from a plethora of summer job opportunities.

“If they don’t like something that the employer is asking them to do, even though it’s part of the job, they can just go out on the street and work somewhere else and find another job with the same pay or maybe even better,” he said. “So it keeps us in the loop to make sure we’re providing the best possible work environment.”

According to Byrum, Grotto often hires youthful workers above minimum wage and offers incentives for some to move between locations when seasonal demand fluctuates.

Lexi Mathis, 16, got a raise to work at a Grotto beach location during the summer months. She said the company is flexible with her schedule and the extra pay will help her cover commuting expenses as inflation remains somewhat stubborn.

“I moved here to try and earn a little extra tip. And that was one of the best decisions ever because it was a big step up and then they gave me a small raise,” said Mathis.

The hiring and availability of labor is a constant headache, especially for small business owners.

The dynamics of labor availability and demand have changed in the wake of the pandemic, and owners often struggle to find skilled and unskilled labor to fill vacancies.

The catering sector is one of those suffering from the shortage of workers. The National Restaurant Association projects restaurants will add an additional 500,000 jobs by the end of the year. However, there was only one job seeker for every two vacancies, increasing competition for labour.

Makiah Grindstaff has worked at Famous Toastery in Davidson, North Carolina for more than two years, both during the school year and in the summer. The high school graduate has saved for multiple goals and said her wages could be as high as $25 an hour depending on the role she fills at the restaurant and the day of the week.

She and her friends pride themselves on having cash on hand for shopping, eating and driving, Grindstaff said.

“I started driving and gas is expensive and I wanted to start saving for college,” she said. “And I just want to have my own money.”

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