As Sussex County's resorts dive into tourist season, summer job opportunities are cropping up for those seeking a little extra cash.
According to the Sussex Economic Development Action Committee, the county's tourism industry provides 15,000 jobs annually. Because of these seasonal opportunities, the county's unemployment numbers tend to decrease drastically at the beginning of summer, but they shoot right back up once winter sets in.
In the most recent data available, the Delaware Department of Labor reports that in 2012, Sussex County saw an 8.1 percent unemployment rate in January and a 6 percent rate in July. In 2011, the county saw a 10 percent unemployment rate in January and a 7 percent rate in July.
However, these rates are directly correlated to an overall smaller winter workforce. Just as unemployment numbers increase in the winter, the county's population decreases. For example, in January 2012, the county's labor force consisted of 90,510 people. That number jumped to 99,296 in July 2012.
"[In the summer], the number of employed [individuals] goes up and the unemployment rate goes down," said SEDAC Program Director Julie Wheatley, adding the opposite happens in the winter. "It's almost like compressions and contractions … like a heartbeat."
SEDAC has predicted that some of the most typical seasonal jobs – those in the food industry – will be among the top 10 job titles for 2018 employment in Sussex County. Food preparation and serving-related occupations are expected to yield 10,431 positions by 2018, while food and beverage serving-related occupations are expected to yield 6,056 positions.
Although these job opportunities exist at Sussex County's beaches, there are few residents who take advantage of them. Because most residents are seeking permanent, full-time employment, job openings at the beaches have for years been filled by foreign students.
Carol Everhart, president of the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce, said prior to 2003 and 2004, the economy was booming and the area saw fewer and fewer American college students seeking summer employment because their parents were able to support them financially. It was around this time, she said, that the beaches saw an influx of foreign students seeking temporary work.
"Now we've transitioned [through] good times, tight times and flat times," Everhart said. "[However] we've not seen a huge return of American students seeking work, nor enough residents seeking seasonal jobs."
Rob Marshall, who has owned the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel in Dewey Beach for 20 years, said he always has more seasonal jobs than he is able to fill, therefore his hotel employs several "cultural exchange students" each year.
"In Sussex County, the average age is over 60, so we have a lot more retired people than young working people," Marshall said. "With most people over the age of 60, it's less likely they'll be a bartender at the Bottle and Cork."
Page 2 of 2 - Marshall also said a person who is willing to take an $8 or $10 per hour job would not be able to afford permanent beach residency. Additionally, American students are not always willing to take on the "not so glamorous" jobs like housekeeping and dishwashing, he said.
Florica Valas, manager at Dolle's Candyland in Rehoboth Beach, said her store employs about six American students, but her foreign workers have a much more open availability.
"[Some] schools here start in August, and that's one of the busiest months of the year," Valas said. "The foreign students don't start school till October, so they're able to work longer."
Valas also said her American students tend to request off more often than the foreign students, who are in the country specifically to work.
In an attempt to provide more summer job opportunities for Delaware high school students, Sen. Gerald Hocker (R-Ocean View) proposed legislation in May that creates a task force to study the feasibility of moving start dates to after Labor Day for all state public schools. Schools in the Indian River and Cape Henlopen districts already begin after Labor Day. The resolution directs the task force to report its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly and the governor by Jan. 14, 2014.