Summer jobs hard to come by for students

By Mike Linn

This time of year has numerous recurring events — rising temperatures, graduation services and students entering the job market.
The glut of job seekers, most entering the labor pool between May and August, receive no guarantees: Labor Department officials say many employers are willing to hire for temporary positions, yet others feel the cost of training are too high for employees who may quit once school starts.
In any case, officials say students seeking jobs other than manual labor positions during the summer should expect to earn an income near minimum-wage levels.
The unemployment rate in Roosevelt County from May through August in 2002 was 4.05 percent, up from the annual average of 3.5, while in Curry County the summer unemployment rate was 4.35, slightly more than the 4.1 annual average for 2002.
Matt Barela with the Department of Labor in Curry County said those figures for Curry County are misleading, while the figures for Roosevelt County may include college students who take the summer off and are automatically considered part of the labor force.
In Curry County last summer, Barela said the closings of major businesses — Lowe’s supermarket, Kmart and ClientLogic — forced many into the class of jobless.
Barela added that most summers the unemployment rate actually decreases slightly, and those figures are at least somewhat attributed to temporary jobs on area farms near harvest season.
The unemployment rate in Curry County as of March was 3.8 percent; 3.7 in Roosevelt County.
Management officials at Wal-Mart in Portales say they don’t typically hire temporary employees, but do open about six extra jobs for the summer in the garden section.
“We don’t have temporary positions to my knowledge, but we do employ several students part-time against their hours that they are in school,” assistant manager Brad Powell said. “A lot of students will increase their work hours during the summer and cut back in the winter.”
At the Cattle Baron restaurant in Portales, management has seen a slight influx in applicants — about 10 to 15.
The restaurant currently employs 15 college students and three or four high school students, according to administrative manager April Garcia.
Garcia said she is unaware if the Cattle Baron hires temporary employment.
Labor representatives in Curry County say temporary jobs are easy to come by for students, but incomes for those jobs are low.
“A lot of employers do hire for a lot of temp(orary) jobs,” Barela said. “They already know they are going to be hiring temp workers for the summer and they don’t have a problem hiring when they know the worker will be leaving.”
Ramon Pinon, a junior at Eastern New Mexico University, is seeking a summer job that pays more than minimum wage.
“I’d rather work a hard labor job because I don’t want to earn minimum wage,” said Pinon, who is seeking at least $7 an hour.
About a third to a half of the students at ENMU will stay for the summer and almost all of them are looking for jobs, estimates Heidi Crates, secretary at the ENMU Department of Counseling and Career Services.
Restaurant and fast-food work are among the best positions for students, Roosevelt County Department of Labor employer representative Kay Jeffries said, because they can build their work schedules around their plans for summer school.
If students are willing to bear the heat and work for a construction company, then wages are typically better, she added.
Pinon said looking for a job is “almost like a game,” because job seekers who know employers have a better chance of landing jobs.
Pinon, who has worked the past two summers in construction, said he’s been searching about 14 days now for a seasonal position.
“I’ll give it one or two more weeks,” he said. “If I don’t have a job by then, I’m off to the parents,” who live in Carlsbad.
To land a job students need to be flexible, both in job selection and in accepting lower wages; Jeffries said that while some students are picky about jobs when seeking summer employment, most students will take almost any job they can get.