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Dave & Dujanovic: Teen workers wanted as economy opens back up

FILE - In this Sept. 2, 2020, file photo, a help wanted sign is displayed at car wash in Indianapolis. The Labor Department reported unemployment numbers Thursday, Sept. 3. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — The summer of the teen worker has arrived. After more than a year of businesses closed across the country, the labor market is opening quickly, and that means teen workers are in high demand in Utah’s economy. 

Economy running hot then cold

Mark Knold, the chief economist for the Utah Department of Workforce Services, joined Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to discuss the economic forces now in play.

Knold said the COVID-19 pandemic was like a natural disaster that collapsed an otherwise healthy US economy.

“The economy wasn’t undercut by internal bad economics like bad financing or overvalued assets — the kinds of things that normally put you into a recession and then, therefore, take much longer and slower time to come out the other side.

“You just have basically an economy that was running hot, turn it off, turn it right back on as soon as the pandemic — we feel any way that it’s over — has waned, and all the sudden, businesses that were closed in mass are just searching and looking for labor. The labor supply just doesn’t turn back on that quickly,” said Knold. 

Teens can pick and choose their summer job

All of that means teens can now shop for the job they like or fits their schedules better or one that pays $5 more an hour.

“Their normal options are not the same as the normal options would have been to teens two years ago, three years ago, four years ago,” Knold said.

“I was wondering how much of that was teens sending a message to businesses, saying ‘Listen, we’re not going to work for eight bucks an hour . . . you’re going to have to step it up if you want my time,'” Dave said.

“Everybody’s trying to get the best deal that they can get, and even teens will do that,” Knold said. “I guess what we’re seeing with this summer is this is almost the best environment for teens to go look for a job and demand a certain level of wages [which is] pushing the wage levels higher than what is normally seen.”

Labor can’t catch up with demand

“What are the other areas where there’s a shortage of teen workers this season?” Debbie asked.

“Anything that was closed down by the pandemic situation and that has opened back up — the leisure and hospitality industry; anywhere that teens might have found some work — in restaurants or the lodging industries,” Knold said. “There’s the quickness with which the economy reopened. And the fact that labor just doesn’t reopen itself at the same speed. And so that’s going to create the shortage for labor.”


Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  


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