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Tough job market for New York's teens

They've struggled through math and survived years of history. now comes the toughest test of all for the city's teens: landing a summer job.

With a weakening economy and a shrinking job pool, this year the annual rite of scoring a summer paycheck and gaining valuable workplace experience will demand creativity, ambition and a lot more hard work.

"In New York, the pros are that there are so many businesses. The downside is there is tougher competition than last year," said Shawn Boyer, CEO of the employment Web site "You need to do things differently."

Especially after Friday's federal report on the nation's job market. It showed the teenage jobless rate hit 18.7% last month, up from 15.4% in April, the biggest jump in 60 years.

Learning job-hunting skills will be crucial for thousands of kids who can't count on work from the city this year.

With budget cuts looming, New York's Summer Youth Employment Program, which provides government-subsidized jobs to New Yorkers aged 14 to 21, will offer 35,000 spots, 7,000 fewer than last year.

"It's extremely bleak," said Cary Goodman, executive director of directions for Our Youth, a Manhattan non-profit, which is advocating for more government funding of the summer job program. "This is the primary source of jobs, especially for kids from poor neighborhoods."

Explaining that the program cuts are the result of the weaker economy, Suzanne Lynn, deputy commissioner of the department of Youth and Community development, said, "Sometimes you have to make tough decisions." The city's funding of the program has grown 32% since 2004, she added.

On top of the city offering fewer summer jobs are employers that typically staff up, such as fast-food chains. Some high school students find themselves facing competition from adults seeking more work to help cope with rising bills.

Ayiesha Selwanes of Forest Hills, Queens, who owns 11 Baskin-Robbins and Dunkin' Donuts franchises citywide, said she'll have 25 kids working behind her counters, 50% less than last year. "Our regular employees are requesting more hours," Selwanes said.

While the market is tight and many available spots have already been filled, experts said it's still worth trying to find a job so long as you have the energy and the know-how to deal with the realities of the marketplace.

First, they said, take advantage of free resources. The city's Workforce1 Career Centers offer New Yorkers 18 and older free help in preparing for and finding jobs. Career counseling is available, as is résumé drafting assistance and, most important, job listings. Check for information. high schoolers should start in the office of their guidance counselors, who often hear first about listings. Kids younger than 18 will need to get signed working papers from their schools.