University of Oklahoma junior Ed Murphy looked only four days for a summer job before he found one with Lowe's in Norman.
Granted, Murphy landed the job before spring break several weeks ago. But by many accounts, seasonal work seems easier to come by this year.
Readers of The Oklahoman report seeing “Help Wanted” signs at Under the Sun garden centers, Michael's and Party America stores, McDonald's and Sophabella's restaurants, and elsewhere across greater Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma Employment Security Commission economist Lynn Gray said he “wouldn't be surprised if the summer job situation has improved over last year,” based on Oklahoma's declining unemployment rate and steady increase in numbers of jobs.
Friday, the commission reported the state's unemployment rate was down to 5 percent, from 5.4 percent in March and 5.9 percent a year ago.
Nationally, only about 25 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds are working, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rate, which was roughly 45 percent in the 1990s, began dropping about a decade ago, with a 10 percent drop since the start of the Great Recession in late 2007.
In Oklahoma, the employment rate for those 16 to 19 years old last year, the most recent data available, was 27.7 percent, down from 29.6 percent in 2010, 38.4 percent in 2007 and 44.4 percent in 2001, Gray said.
Despite the national and local declines, seasonal hiring has remained consistent at Lowe's, which this year expects to hire an estimated 40,000 seasonal workers, or about 23 workers per store, the same as last year, spokes
“Spring is the busiest time of year in the home improvement industry,” Lentz said.
In Norman, Murphy, 20, serves as a support customer service representative in Lowe's garden section, working mainly with rocks and pavers.
“It's a lot of fun, and I get a great workout,” said Murphy, who is a member of OU's RUF/NEKS student pep squad. His goal is to earn $5,000 by summer's end to buy a car.
The Greens Country Club this summer will hire about 50 lifeguards, golf cart handlers and food service workers, or roughly eight more seasonal workers than last year, General Manager Jim Cowan said. Following the club's remodel this past year, there's more interest in its pool, Cowan said. The club also is introducing more youth activities, he said, including soccer and cheerleading camps, in addition to its swim, tennis and golf camps.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma State University-
Birdwell's work centers on radio-frequency identification (RFID), a technology that uses radio waves to identify, track and store electronic information on objects, from window stickers used for quick pay of turnpike tolls to wheelchairs and hospital identification bracelets, which may have microchips embedded or attached to them.
He chose to focus on RFID in August for a project he undertook in the engineering academy at Francis Tuttle Technology Center. Because of his work at Kohl's, where he observed misplaced and stolen shoes and incorrect shoe inventories, Birdwell decided to tag shoes with RFID technology. Subsequent networking, following presentations of his findings to engineering societies and others, led to his current opportunities.
“The retail experiences I had and connections I made all built on itself,” he said.
Calvin Nelms, of Mustang, a new OU computer science graduate and new hire at SandRidge Energy Inc., confirms the importance of internships and networking.
He interned last summer under the deputy director at the Federal Aviation Administration, who knew someone in information technology at SandRidge, where he interned this past semester.
“That internship turned into a full-time job,” Nelms said. “The job market is a little rough, but computer science isn't suffering as much, especially in Oklahoma.”
Apps help with job search
Need help finding a job? There's an app for that. Two iPhone software applications are popular with job seekers, especially new college graduates. “HireMe,” at 99 cents, includes practice interview questions to which users can record answers and play them back for review, and a video tutorial on how to tie a necktie. Meanwhile, the free app