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Soft economy, more competition making for tough season for some

Summer work becoming harder to find

Mississippi’s current unemployment rate may well be the lowest rate seen this year, as reported by the Mississippi Employment Security Commission (MESC) on May 24, but not everyone is jumping for joy.

Many young Americans are finding themselves among the unemployed this summer, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Like others in search of an income, summer job seekers are faced with a soft economy and more competition this year.

Nationally the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for workers between 16 and 19 was 16.8% in April, the highest level since 1997.

Curt Thompson, executive director of the MESC, said young people in Mississippi are facing the same problems as those across the country. Funding shortfalls have even kept the MESC from hiring in the last five to six years and, Thompson said, that trend is appearing in many other businesses as well.

“Fast food and retail businesses aren’t looking for summer help but for employees who can at the very least come back and work during the holidays or work during the school year,” Thompson explained. He said the cost of training new hires can be high, and for that reason hiring seasonal help is simply not an option.

Barbara Nichols, general manager of Olde Tyme Commissary and Commissary Kids in Jackson, said neither of the stores she manages usually hires summer help.

“We hire some high school and college kids but they work during the school year too,” Nichols said. “We don’t want to hire someone, train them and lose them.”

The only time the two stores do hire temporary help is during Christmas for help with gift wrapping items.

Dana Canoy, who owns Village Boutique in Jackson, said she does not normally hire summer help either. It is not usually necessary, she said, because summer is normally a rather slow time for those in the apparel business anyway. So many people travel during the summer, she explained, that the number of customers who shop at Village Boutique and other similar shops have already bought the items they will be wearing during the season.

Canoy was quick to point out, though, that even with the lazy days of summer approaching, business at Village Boutique is still increasing every year. Her sales increased by about 12% overall last year and she hopes that is a sign of better things to come.

“We’re constantly getting customers in every week,” Canoy said. “Hopefully in the future I’ll have to add someone but our plans right now are not to.”

Steve Zischke, general manager of Lakeland Yard and Garden on Lakeland Drive in Flowood, said the young people who work for him are usually those who have worked at Lakeland Yard and Garden throughout the year during afternoons, evenings and on weekends.

“We give them first priority,” Zischke said.

Zischke said Lakeland Yard and Garden has had a relatively good spring and has seen an increase in sales over the past several months. For that reason Zischke has hired some new employees. But, he said, he is continuing to take a cautious approach to his business because of the economy.

“We feel our business will still have a good steady growth, but we just don’t know how much so we’re playing it conservatively at this point,” Zischke explained.

Restaurants: Now hiring

Summer hires may not be all the rage for some businesses, but for others like the restaurant business, summer work can easily be found.

Andy Jones, manager of Que Sera Sera in Jackson, said he has already hired two new part-time summer employees and will more than likely hire more. But, he said, the restaurant business differs from retail when it comes to turnover rates. Usually the only difference between summer hires and regular hires are that the time the summer hires leave is defined, which can be much better than not knowing from one day to the next who will stay and who will leave. Summer help, Jones said, is sometimes more reliable than regular hires.

“They want to make money and then they’re out,” Jones said.

Do not count on all restaurants to be hiring this summer, though. Jeanette Johnson, who manages the Subway sandwich shop at Parkway Place, said she does not plan to hire help this summer.

“We have all the employees we need at this store and we haven’t had the turnover,” Johnson said.

According to the MESC, Lafayette County had the state’s lowest unemployment rate in April at 2.4%, followed by Rankin County with 3.2% and Lamar County with 3.4%. Issaquena County recorded the highest unemployment rate with 18.6%. Webster County had the second highest rate at 16.5% and Holmes County was the third highest with a rate of 14.9%. Thompson said the state’s unemployment rate usually goes up in May as student workers enter the job market looking for summer work.

Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at ekirkland@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1042.


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