Providence, R.I. This summer, the guy running the Tilt-A-Whirl at the beach might be a laid-off, middle-aged accountant instead of the usual bored teenager. And the towel boy at the pool might be from East Providence instead of Eastern Europe.
All over the country, resorts and other summer businesses are getting swamped with applications from out-of-work Americans, many of them professionals. They are competing for jobs usually filled by young people and foreigners — making beds, serving brunch, mowing lawns, running concession stands and operating carnival games and rides.
Six months ago, Ramon Villanueva was earning $50,000 a year at a Philadelphia company that rents out sound systems and video projectors. But he got laid off in the fall, and now he is making $8 an hour operating the Frog Bog game on the Seaside Heights boardwalk at the Jersey shore.
“I never really thought I’d be working here,” said Villanueva, a 22-year-old with a wife and two children. “I thought I’d be a customer here.”
All over the country, as unemployment rises, U.S. workers like Villanueva are lowering their expectations.
“The demographics of this year’s summer work force is going to change into more well-educated, semi-retired, people in crunches, people happy to be employed,” said Patty Ceglio Bishoff, director of operations for CoolWorks.com, an online board based in Gardiner, Mont., that helps people find summer jobs in scenic areas.
About 8,000 people turned out for a job fair run by the Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association in South Carolina last month — double the number from the previous year.
Some employers said they still prefer laborers from overseas.
“I have to force them to take a break,” said Cindy Buziak, owner of the Holly Beach Hotel, a bed and breakfast in Wildwood, N.J. “American kids just want to get in and get out.”
That’s not the only problem facing teenagers this year, said Austin Lavin, who co-founded Myfirstpaycheck.com, a job site for teens.
“Teenagers have to be better prepared than they’ve ever been before,” Lavin said. “It’s no longer OK to just show up in jeans and a T-shirt and ask for a job.”