I went to the mall for the first time in awhile yesterday to pick up a few things I needed for the office. I was immediately struck by how different the employees looked. Walking around, I hardly saw the stereotypical sullen teenagers working at the cell phone kiosks, food courts and clothing stores. The foodcourt was completely staffed by immigrants and even at some of the younger stores, most of the employees were middle aged. It was strange to walk into a clothing store for people my age and find it staffed with 55+ women, when 2 years ago it was staffed by high school and college aged workers.
My guess is that young people who want jobs are getting pushed out of the market by older, more experienced and more reliable employees because of unemployment in other areas of the economy. With unemployment near 10% and underemployment much higher, people are starting to support their families with mall jobs.
I think the other factor in play is that many middle/upper class teens now don’t want to get jobs. They’d rather get internships rather than work a job that they believe is “beneath” them or they’d rather do nothing at all and hang out with their friends all summer.
It does make sense though. Teens are generally more unreliable than older people who need the job to support themselves or their families and the immigrants working the foodcourt seem to work (much) harder than the average high school junior. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out as the recession continues. Will older workers stay in the workforce longer and prevent younger people from being hired? Will younger people (even those with college degrees) have to accept “lower status” jobs? I think it’s likely. The only way out is for companies to start creating more jobs, which I don’t see as being likely on a mass scale in the current economic climate. It’s going to be an interesting next few years.
What do you think? Do you see the same phenomenon in your area?