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Young Americans struggle to find jobs, internships this summer

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Annie Christie, a rising sophomore at Northeastern University, applied for dozens of summer internships without any bites before she posted an ad on her neighborhood chat board looking for odd jobs in Bethesda, Maryland.

“Everything kind of blew up,” said Christie, an architecture major. “In high school I would do work around the neighborhood, mostly dog walking and pet sitting, so I went back to that idea.”

The hunt for a job this summer has become even more difficult for the nation’s youth because of the coronavirus pandemic. The relaxation of business restrictions now under way in states across the country hasn’t come fast enough or reached deep enough to allow millions of teenagers and young adults, including college students, to find traditional summer work.

New York City’s Summer Youth Employment Program, the largest such effort in the country, was canceled. Last year, the program employed about half of the 150,000 young people who applied and participants earned an average of about $1,670 each.

Traditional areas of youth employment in sectors like leisure and hospitality, as well as jobs in retail, have been decimated by pandemic-induced shutdowns.

One-quarter of workers ages 16 to 24 lost their jobs from February to May due to the Covid-19 downturn. A key contributing factor was that nearly half of younger workers were employed in higher-risk industries as of February, compared with 24% of workers overall, according to Pew Research Center.

Adults ages 18 to 29 were also more likely than older Americans to say their pay was cut because of the coronavirus outbreak, according to a Pew survey conducted April 29-May 5.

The lost summer of 2020 may have longer-term consequences, since the lack of work experience denies many the job readiness skills useful in gaining future employment.

Carmen Hamm, a rising Boston College senior with a double major in environmental studies and psychology, said she applied for more than a dozen summer internships. She heard back from about half, all of which said the programs had been canceled.

For some, diligence and resiliency will pay off.

Christie was hired by a landscaping business and said she’ll keep looking for neighborhood work on the side. Hamm accepted a full-time babysitting job.

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