News Feature

Our Community
Originally published in Castine Patriot, May 17, 2018 and Island Ad-Vantages, May 17, 2018 and The Weekly Packet, May 17, 2018
Employers seek to fill summer, year-round jobs

Help wanted

Local businesses seek summer help in different ways, such as this sign displayed on Route 15 in front of Eggemoggin Country Store in Sedgwick.

Photo by Anne Berleant Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Anne Berleant

In Hancock County, job openings jump in the summer, but finding a willing and available workforce is not always easy. With 5,253 people employed in accommodations and food service last July—nearly one-fourth of the total 22,624 employed—the local summer job market is mainly driven by the tourist economy.

“Hancock County has the highest amount of seasonality in the state,” said Glenn Mills of the Maine Department of Labor Center for Workforce Research.

But while summer jobs have traditionally been filled in large part by students, the most natural of summer employees, a national trend for teenagers to forgo summer jobs in favor of more education and internships has had an impact.

The U.S. Department of Labor tracked teenage employment from 1979 to 2015 and found that the percentage dropped from 59 percent to about 36 percent, with a projected 26.4 percent of teens employed in the summer by 2024. (See blog.dol.gov/2017/03/09/teens-trends).

Factor in that in March 2018, the state unemployment rate of 2.7 percent was the lowest since 1976 and Hancock County showed a drop from 5.6 percent in March 2017 to 4.3 percent in March 2018, and it becomes clear that local businesses face a challenge in finding summer workers.

Some businesses have adapted, such as one Stonington waterfront restaurant. For decades, Fisherman’s Friend was a summer destination for locals, day-trippers and out-of-towners. But current owner Tony Bray re-visioned it in 2017 into Stonecutter’s Kitchen, with a walk-up counter to order and no table service because of the difficulty in finding summer help. This summer, food will be delivered to customers after they order.

“Last year was kind of a challenge,” Bray said, adding that it was due to temporary issues with key staff. “And [this summer] we are actually utilizing our help a little bit better. We have a really solid staff, knock on wood.”

Help wanted, year-round

As challenging as finding a seasonal workforce may be, it’s not only in summer that employers have trouble filling jobs. In northeastern Maine (Hancock, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Washington and Aroostook counties), a Maine Department of Labor 2016 job vacancy survey reported 5,090 unfilled jobs across many sectors: 41 percent in healthcare, 12 percent in retail, 12 percent in accommodations and food service, 7 percent in manufacturing, 5 percent in other services, and 24 percent in all other industries. Statewide, the highest job vacancies were in food preparation and serving.

Statewide, the current employment-to-population ratio estimate is 61.6 percent, above the 60.4 percent U.S. average, according to the MDOL Center for Workforce Research and U.S. Department of Labor. Minimum wage in Maine is $10 an hour, $5 an hour for tipped employees.

In accommodations and food service, the average weekly pay was $486 in March 2017, a $66 increase since 2013. Across all industries, workers received an average of $696 per week in March 2017 versus $635 in March 2013.

Under 18 and want to work this summer?

For young people looking to earn some money this summer, it may help to start searching early.

“The main problem with finding a job as a teenager is applying too late in the season,” said Michael Osborn, a 15-year-old Blue Hill resident, who began his search during April school vacation.

Osborn found a summer job at his second try and will be washing dishes at the Boatyard Grill this summer.

He also added some advice for first-time job seekers: “I learned you have to settle for the most boring jobs in a business. For example, if you apply at a restaurant you are most likely going to be washing dishes, and if you apply at a grocery store you’re most likely gonna be pushing carts.”

Maine child labor laws

Under Maine child labor laws, 14 and 15 year olds may work in most businesses but can’t perform all jobs. Here are the basic laws governing teen workers in summer vacation:

Under 16 years old:
Must receive work permit
Superintendent of school must certify good academic standing
Can’t work more than six days in a row
Can’t work before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
Can’t work more than 8 hours a day, or 40 hours per week
Can’t work in manufacturing, construction, cooking and baking, with power machinery, serving alcoholic beverages and more

16 and 17 years old and older:
Can’t work more than 10 hours in any one day
Can’t work more than 50 hours a week
Can’t work in motor vehicle driving; some power-driven machinery; roofing; excavation; alone in a cash-based business; in direct contact with pesticides; at heights or in confined spaces; serving alcoholic beverages and more

For full Maine Child Labor Laws, see maine.gov/labor/posters/childlabor.pdf.