"I think it would be great just to have that first job," she said.
The 18-year-old has done her homework: She has applied many places; she has volunteer work to put on her resume.
On Wednesday, Petersen, who plans to study education at Edmonds Community College, attended one of three job fairs aimed at high school students in Snohomish County. The event was hosted by the county's Workforce Development Council and WorkSource.
A similar job fair last week in Monroe attracted about 75 students, said Heather Villars, a council spokeswoman. In the first hour on Wednesday, nearly 200 students had made their way to the Lynnwood fair.
But the actual jobs offered were sparse -- a reflection of the county's employment picture. The county's jobless rate hit 10 percent in mid-2009 and has hovered there ever since.
The job fair on Wednesday featured plenty of volunteer opportunities, which could be a key step in landing full-time employment. They included the county Medical Reserve Corp, the Sno-Isle Regional Library system and United Way.
"It's early exposure to work experiences that gives youth a leg-up when seeking full-time employment later in life," said AJ Forkner of WorkSource Snohomish County.
A survey of Snohomish County high school students released last month showed how the bleak employment trend has affected students. About 36 percent of high school seniors said they worked for pay in 2010, down from 57 percent in 2006. Roughly 13 percent of eighth-graders said they worked for pay in 2010, down from 33 percent in 2006.
"There has been a lot of discouragement for young people," said Anneliese Vance-Sherman, regional economist for the state Employment Security Department.
Nationally, employment for young adults, ages 16 to 24, dropped to the lowest rate on record last July, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Less than half of people in that age group were employed. The bureau has kept records on employment since 1948.
"It has not been a really robust job market for anybody, including youth," Vance-Sherman said.
WorkSource encouraged high school students Wednesday to sign up for its services, which includes job screening for a variety of companies.
Lena Wang, outreach coordinator for the Department of Labor and Industries, was there to educate students on their rights as workers. She also pointed students toward apprenticeship programs.
"The more information they're armed with, the better," Wang said.
Run to Win Outreach was one of the few offering paid positions at the job fair. The program puts on 68 camps for children over the summer, said Mike Rohrbach, director for Run to Win. Last summer, Run to Win hired 95 student athletes -- high school and college students.
The summer sports camp caught the attention of Thomas Susnios, a sophomore at Lynnwood High School. But Susnios, like Petersen, said he would be happy with any opportunity.
Economist Vance-Sherman noted that the job market is slowly improving in the county. Industries such as retail trade and food services have seen slight growth in recent months. Those are industries that tend to hire young people in the summer.
However, Vance-Sherman said that employment has been tough to predict.
"If it's like last summer, it's going to be difficult for young people," she said.
Next teen job fair
The final job fair put on by the Workforce Development Council of Snohomish County for high school students is scheduled for 3 to 6 p.m., May 18 at Marysville Getchell High School, 8301 84th St. NE.
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