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How’s Business?: Teeny job mart

Although disguised as winter, spring has finally arrived. And, of course, right behind it will come summer, which in the past a car commercial touted as a time for baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.

There will be senior proms, talks of vacations and summer jobs for teenagers. But “jobs” still remains a very touchy word in today’s economy. Nevertheless, it is at this time of the year that teens start thinking about the kinds of jobs they can line up for the summer.

Those who remember the days of years ago when we had our summer jobs recall how they motivated and organized us — not to mention how they complemented our formal education. So how do things look for teenagers seeking summer employment in Queens?

Well, the situation certainly has changed over the last several years. There used to be a federal jobs-for-teens program that filled quite a void, but it was phased out in the mid-’90s. Then there were those great jobs when I was a teenager, such as being a soda jerk in the neighborhood drug or candy stores.

In addition to the money you made, these positions came with great fringe benefits such as shooting the breeze with your friends who came in and, of course, all the delicious egg creams you could drink. Remember those egg creams? Well, there are no more local soda fountain hangouts.

Another option for teens — although not as attractive as the soda jerk job — was that of bagging groceries at the neighborhood supermarket. In today’s supermarket it’s a policy of either you pack your own or the cashier is expected to assume the dual role of cashier and bagger. Add to that the competition for what limited jobs there are from the increasing number of immigrants in this country.

And immigrants are quite competitive, maintaining a reputation for being very dependable and well-motivated. That now compounds the problem of not only fewer jobs but also more applicants. A study at Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market indicates the percentage of 16- to 19-year-olds holding jobs nationally is the lowest since the government began tracking statistics in 1948.

But it’s only March, so Queens businesses still have the opportunity both privately and publicly in providing teens with summer jobs.

So how’s business for teens seeking summer jobs? You can say it in just two words: enormously competitive.

Joe Palumbo is the fund manager of The Palco Group Inc., an investment company, and can be reached at or 718-461-8317.

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