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Friday, June 14, 2024

Statewide recession makes job search difficult for students

A city with no "help wanted" signs, zero classified ads and no applications. A desk covered in backed-up bills and a car with an empty tank of gas. A passing dream of a loyal paycheck.

And still no callbacks, no interviews and no money.

That is what this summer has felt like for many Gainesville students desperate for jobs. Due to the current downturn in Florida's economy, many students can't find work this summer.

Economist and UF professor David Denslow said Florida's economic activity started declining in March 2008.

"Florida, though maybe not the nation, is in a recession," Denslow said.

He said the economic status is not seasonal, and Florida will be in the recession for another year.

Several factors have led to the current economic condition, including the credit crunch, the collapse of the housing boom and soaring gasoline and food prices, Denslow said.

With the recession taking its toll on the economy, most people use their money for necessities.

"People aren't eating out as much," Denslow said. "They aren't buying as many appliances and cars, and they are cutting back on other expenditures as well."

With less money being spent, many businesses can no longer afford to hire new staff.

They choose to pay pre-existing employees rather than take on the liability of training transient students.

Struggling to find work is something Maxx Mann, a UF health science junior, suffered with for a whole year.

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Mann has three years of experience bussing tables and two years serving.

He started applying for jobs at the end of last summer. Mann applied to 20 businesses, including 10 this summer, and was turned down by every one.

College students who need money vastly outnumber available jobs, he said.

"Then you've got to factor in the availability of Gainesville residents that are in town, and we're all competing for jobs with them," he said.

Mann finally found a job as a restaurant server in early July.

But not without patient persistence.

Competition from new students can make finding a job even more difficult.

During UF's summer A/C term, 122 more students registered this year than last year, and 434 more students registered for the summer B term, said Mary Ann Hagler, associate registrar for the Office of the University Registrar.

Roy Reid, a UF theater junior, started applying for a summer job in early June.

Reid said the fact that there are fewer students in Gainesville during the summer means businesses do not have to hire as many employees, making it that much harder to find a job.

"A lot of students go home, and there are a lot of students that are in Gainesville that are looking for jobs, so there's not just this giant mass for them to serve," he said.

He planned on getting a part-time job in his spare time from performing in a play.

But by the time the show ended at the start of summer B, he still had not found a job.

Reid was one more drop in the pool of unemployed students in Gainesville.

The Factory Card & Party Outlet, located in Butler Plaza, received more than 200 applications this summer and hired only five, said Assistant Manager Jennie Gorman.

Gorman, who has worked at the store for eight years, said the number of hires this summer was significantly lower than previous summers, and she has seen the impact of the current economy on the store.

"We definitely notice a lot more returns, less people in the store and people spending less money," she said.

Another business feeling the weight of the recession is The Gelato Company, located downtown on Southeast First Avenue.

Manager Monique Lara said July is usually the slowest month of the year for most businesses, but she has sensed the impact of the economic downturn for a while.

"Every month this year has been a little slower than last year," Lara said.

The Gelato Company has also lost business because the city has cut back on downtown activities near the shop, and businesses that used to cater from the store have also cut funds, Lara said.

All of these issues equate to hard times for students looking for a job.

Lara said the store has only hired one person out of more than 25 applicants this summer.

Despite the setbacks, Lara said the store continues to make a good profit.

Tim Darnell, owner of downtown restaurant Flaco's Cuban Bakery and Coffee, said he hasn't seen the restaurant losing business due to the recession, but he has received more applications this summer than last.

Darnell hired three people from more than 30 applications.

And this trend is likely to continue, Denslow said.

"Unfortunately, I doubt the job market for students will clear up in the fall," he said. "There'll be some seasonal relief as students return to school but not a lot."

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