Granite Bay High School students struggle to find employment amidst pandemic impacted economy


photoillustration by Sophie Nguyen

GBHS students are struggling to find employment amidst a pandemic impacted economy and competition with adult applications.

Two years after COVID-19 started and the economic recession began, unemployment rates have spiked high but are steadily decreasing month after month. However, for many GBHS students who are navigating for their first jobs, many have stated difficulties landing one. 

In the rapidly-changing labor market, teens find that they are applying to jobs marketed for hire but are being rejected or ignored when their applications are sent in. With more teens branching out for in-person work two years after the beginning of the pandemic, unemployment numbers have elevated. 

The decline in teen job acceptance is also directly related to the labor market’s sluggishness post-pandemic. Other than the general labor unemployment rate of 14.8% immediately after the start of the pandemic, as noted by the Congressional Research Service, young workers between the ages of 16-24 noted an unemployment rate of 24.4% in 2021 as opposed to the average of 8.4% pre-pandemic. 

Young adults under the age of 18 have a time constraint regarding work hours. A state-mandated law, teens aged 16-17 can only work for four hours per weekday, totaling 48 hours per week, and teens aged 14-15 can only work for three hours each day with a total of 18 hours per week. 

On the other hand, teen employees ages 16-17 can work up to eight hours on a non-school day, marking twice the number of hours in the summer than in the normal school year. Asia Pangelinan, a junior, works up to eight hours a day over the summer at a kid’s camp. 

Nuyo, a shop serving frozen yogurt ideal for the summer months, had a shortage of workers marking the beginning of summer, but the staff is suited now as they head into the winter months. 

There is currently high demand, yet low supply, leading companies to be selective when choosing applicants. 

“One thing we look for in (applicants) is for people who are not going away to college,” Nuyo at Granite Bay owner Kimberly Guyton said, “If they’re … staying local, we are able to kind of nurture and train and develop those employees along the way.” 

Most teens only work during the summer. Once school starts, the average student tends to work only once or twice a week. As most employers require full-time employees to work eight hours a day, and with teens only working the equivalent of a part-time employee, employers are turning them over for fully-qualified adults. Competition with adults extends beyond hours. 

Teenagers’ lack of work experience may hinder their success at grabbing jobs. Empty resumes compared to adults over the age of 18 may be a reason businesses aren’t hiring. Due to the minimal level of experience, most teens work in the food and entertainment industries, where little to no experience is required. 

For instance, at Chick-Fil-A, a fast-food restaurant with many GBHS employees, applicants typically need only an interview and an evaluation before being accepted. Nuyo goes through one to two interviews. 

Jada Stansberry, a junior, works at Chick-Fil-A. She has worked there for 10 months. 

“No experience is required. This was my first job,” Stansberry said.

On the other hand, Guyton claims that she accepts people with or without experience. She openly spreads the word to recruit employees through family and friends along with posting open positions on job posting sites. 

For teens who want a job specifically aligned with the career that they’re planning to pursue, finding one proves more difficult. 

Specifically, Pangelinan has a summer job as a Recreational Specialist at a youth camp. This is her first paid job, with prior experience as a boys’ volleyball coach. 

“Personally, I’m struggling to find an internship of my career interest,” Pangelinan said. “I know a lot of other people who are also looking for internships right now.” 

Regardless of the instances or unique circumstances, the job market has and will always remain difficult, and especially for the inexperienced and young, navigating rejection is far from being avoidable. 

“People who have gotten internships, it’s usually through their parents or their parents’ businesses,” Pangelinan said. “So (for) people who don’t have that type of connection, they’re struggling … with finding actual internships that fit their career of interest, which could then … put on their college applications. So it’s stressful.”