Seeing a big spike, even this summer, you can take that as a signal to the economy as a whole. —Brigham Frandsen, professor of economics at Brigham Young University
PROVO — This summer, Matt Frogley, 24, will split his time between wiping off tables, greeting customers and grilling up hot dogs at J Dawgs in Provo and landscaping, fixing trails and putting up fences at a private ranch.
He is one of the millions of those ages 18 to 24 who have lined up summer employment.
This year, summer job applicants are coming into an already strong market.
“Utah’s economy has never been stronger since the recession,” said Nic Dunn, public information officer for the Department of Workforce Services.
Yet despite booming industries, some companies say there is more demand this summer season than there are employees.
Summertime is the traditional peak time for youth employment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and rates continue to improve as the country climbs out of recession. Job growth increased from 48.8 percent in July 2011 to 50.2 percent in July 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The construction and leisure and hospitality sectors are poised for the most growth this summer, based on trends for previous years, Dunn said. And almost all of Utah’s job sectors are growing.
Construction has added 5,500 jobs since March 2012, and has an 8.6 percent growth rate. Leisure and hospitality has added more than 9,200 jobs in the past year, at a 7.9 percent growth rate.
High school and college-aged students are "a perfect match up," for jobs in leisure and hospitality, said Brigham Frandsen, professor of economics at Brigham Young University. As soon as pools start needing lifeguards, these workers are out of school and available for work.
The construction industry's success bodes well for the rest of the economy, he said.
"Seeing a big spike, even this summer, you can take that as a signal to the economy as a whole," he said.
The construction cycle revolves around warm weather, he said, so the spike will even out after summer months.
"There is a lot of demand. Actually, there is more demand than there is product," said Rene Oehlerking, marketing director for Garbett Homes. Garbett Homes expects to build 400 homes this year, up from the 280 to 300 they built annually before the recession and the 80 to 100 homes they built each year during the recession.
They hire out 50 to 60 subcontractors to help build the homes, contracting out jobs for the windows, framing, electricity, etc. Building Materials and Construction Services is one of the subcontractors that handles a lot of the framing for Garbett Homes.
While some of the jobs require a specific skill set, many of their openings are entry-level jobs, according to John Osborne, marketing and sales manager for the company. These entry-level jobs have been the hardest for his company to fill. They lost workers because of the government's E-verify employment eligibility requirements, he said.
Some high school and college-aged workers have filled in the gaps, but Building Materials and Construction Services still does not have enough employees to hire on a second shift of workers.
In spite of this, Osborne said they have 20 percent more workers this year than last year.
"There's a need and people are just seeking it out," he said.
Those who are looking for short-term summer jobs can work in areas requiring fewer skills, he said, and receive additional training on the job.
Employees can also use their summer work to prepare for future professions, according to Brent Sheets, executive director of Kearns Oquirrh Mountain Fitness Center.
"What we do is far far more than just a job," Sheets said, explaining that employees work as a team to create a positive recreational environment for families.
Custodians are tasked with creating an environment of cleanliness, not just sweeping floors. Front counter employees get to know customers by name, look them in the eye and smile. Lifeguards show up before their shifts start so they are prepared to greet the public when the pool opens, he said.
In the summer they hire around 120 new staff members to help with everything from sweeping and custodial work to concession stands, to water instructors, lifeguards, front counter employees, kids club counselors and tennis instructors. These jobs see a lot of high school and college-aged students for the summer.
"At a very young age, they learn what it means to work hard," he said, adding that he hopes their future employers will recognize the reliability and work ethic they develop.
Every employee's job is important, Sheets said, and his employees come back year after year to work as part of a team.
Whitney Olsen started as a lifeguard at the Kearns Fitness Center in the summer of 2010. She is a college student and will return to work for the summer. She likes the ease of scheduling and is excited to teach new hires the ropes.
"It feels like a family," Olsen said.
Not all recreation centers in Utah have not seen sharp growth, despite the good economy. The pool staff at Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center is down, according to the center's aquatics director, Lyse Durrant.
Traditionally her workers are younger than 20, but that pool of once-available workers has dwindled, partly because of lower age requirements for LDS missionaries. This has been problematic for Durrant who also needs more staff to work fewer hours because of the pending Affordable Care Act.
This will affect Brian O'Neal, 15, who will only be able to log 29 hours per week at the recreation center. This summer, O'Neal will start his first summer job as a junior lifeguard. He plans on working the full 29 hours weekly in addition to his competitive swim practice and meets.
Lifeguards complete training in CPR and first aid to prepare them to respond to emergencies. Although the idea of rescuing a patron is daunting, O'Neal said he is prepared to respond to such situations.
“It’s always going to be nerve-wracking but as long as you stay up on everything and review procedures, it should go pretty smoothly,” he said.
In addition to his training, he looks forward to developing a strong work ethic and responsibilities that will prepare him for future jobs.
Frogley will log 13- to 14-hour days between his two jobs while he and his wife save up for their first baby, due in the fall. In November he will wrap up work with the landscape company and resume his studies in finance.
The options for summer jobs are limitless, Frogley said. In past summers he sold pest control, corn on the side of the road, and also worked at Kmart and at a cemetery.
"If you like change, it's nice to have an end in sight," Frogley said of summer employment.