Students and Seniors Battle for Jobs

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During the summer months students' earnings shifted from grades to greenbacks. A Bureau of Labor Statistics report released this month maintains that the number of employed youth 16 to 24 years old increased by 2.3 million to 21.4 million from April to July 2004. The jump is largely due to high school and college students looking for and taking summer jobs and graduates entering the labor market for permanent employment. However, despite the increase in this cohort's employment, students are up against more competition from an experienced and dependable labor force.

Roughly 200,000 more youth worked this summer than over the same time period last year, which analysts say is the result of a larger youth workforce. Bob Losyk, president and CEO of Innovative Training Solutions, a workforce consultancy in Davie, Fla., and author of the book Managing A Changing Workforce, says it largely has to do with Generation Y's large population size, which comes close to that of the Baby Boomers. Losyk, who focuses on the under-30 workforce, says, "[Generation Y and Millennials] are starting to finally come into the workforce. Finally, we're getting that push of numbers we've been hearing about."

In July 2004, 3 million youth were unemployed, which represents a drop in the youth unemployment rate to 12.3 percent from 13.3 percent in July 2003. While a lower unemployment rate is usually indicative of a growing economy, the opposite may be true when it comes to students. "A lot of parents are either out of work or underemployed, so they're making sure their kids are out there and working as soon as possible to help out the family," Losyk says. "There are a whole lot of people struggling out there on the lower end."

But financial pressures also plaguing seniors, as well. A recent poll by The Gallup Organization concluded that retirement tops the list of financial concerns for American families. The poll, which surveyed 1,014 respondents, revealed that 52 percent are either "very" or "moderately" worried about retirement. Already, nearly one-third, (32 percent) of those 65 and older are concerned about having enough money for retirement. What's more, concern jumps dramatically to 56 percent of those between the ages of 50 and 65.

The concerns are well founded. According to the BLS, the unemployment rate for Americans 50 years old and older has edged up from 2.7 percent in 1999 to 4.0 percent in 2003. To ease their financial burdens, seniors are willing to take jobs once intended for students, making the job market even more competitive for the younger cohort. "There are people in their 50's and 60's who, as a way of survival, are willing to take those low paying jobs," Losyk says.

He adds that convenience store managers, for example, are seeing more seniors applying for jobs than ever before because there aren't enough higher paying jobs. These store managers, he adds, are often willing to accept seniors with open arms, because of their experience and dependability, plus, mangers don't have to worry as much about theft, tardiness and absenteeism, Losyk says. "People who don't want to work are not dependable. When you get older employees you don't have that problem as much, and when given the choice managers will hire older people."

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