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Teens will need to scramble to find scarce summer jobs

Teens looking for summer work are going to find fewer prospects, with little improvement from last year's rock-bottom job market, according to global outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas. And those who want a summer job should start looking now, experts say.

The company each year produces a teen summer job prospects report. This year the report found not only very poor prospects, but it warned that if gas prices continue to go up, some stalwart employers like amusement parks, hotels and resorts, landscapers and others are likely to cut back.

Summer 2010 brought the weakest market in decades, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, down 17.5 percent from the previous year. Summer 2011 is expected to fare no better, in what has been the lowest summer hiring level since 1949. In 2010, 960,000 summer jobs were filled by teens. That's compared to 1.7 million summer jobs for teens in 2006, "bringing total employment for this age group to 7,494,000 in July, which historically represents the annual peak of summer employment," CG&C said in a release.

As of February, total teen employment stood at 3.9 million, 4 percent lower than a year ago — and 30 percent below February 2006, when teen employment reached a peak of 5.7 million.

Company CEO John A. Challenger predicts some of the best jobs may go to the "odd-job entrepreneur."

He said families may be cutting back on services like lawn care and home cleaning, but the jobs still need to be done and families strapped for cash who don't have a lot of time may be happy to hire a teen who can do it cheaper.

The Wall Street Journal reported that 120,000 kids in 31 cities will attend daylong entrepreneur events in May. The training is called Lemonade Day (referring to the old lemonade stand, a staple of youth employment). "The program, launched in 2007 with 2,600 participants, teaches children and teens how to borrow and repay investors who help start their stands and what to do with profit, including donating some to charity," founder Michael Holthouse, a Houston philanthropist, said in the article.

It's about creating your own job and being the boss. The National Research Center for College and University Admissions says it did a survey that found about 3.7 percent of high school seniors would like to be business owners or entrepreneurs. An even higher number of younger high school students has that goal.

Don't count ambitious kids out in a down market. In September, Business Insider published a story about 10 pre-teen entrepreneurs who make more money than their folks do. Between them. they've written books, started fashion lines, embarked on lawncare businesses and more. And we're not talking peanuts here, either. At least one was worth millions by age 21.

In May, MSNMoney hailed another set who made it big, describing them this way: "Some identified problems and created companies to solve them; others turned their hobbies into moneymaking ventures. Some teamed up with friends, siblings and mentors; others plowed ahead on their own."