AIKEN - Behind the counter at Bath & Body Works in the Aiken Mall sits a swollen folder, more than 6 inches thick, filled with completed job applications.
That folder will continue to grow in the coming months as teenagers search for summer jobs, store manager Christina Mundy said, because there aren't enough open positions at her store.
"We have hired kids in high school. But our business doesn't flex in the summer months, so we usually don't hire summer workers," she said.
Barbara Huff, 19, knows that now.
She looked for a summer job almost a year before she landed a part-time gig at the Dollar Tree in the Aiken Mall.
She said finding her first job was hard because employers were looking for experience.
"I needed money to pay for college. I filled out applications for every store in the mall and then went to Lowe's, Home Depot, Wal-Mart - you name it. I had to just keep looking," she said.
Nationally, only about 42 percent of teens ages 16-19 seeking summer jobs will find them, according to a study released last month by the Center for Labor Studies at Boston's Northeastern University.
The prospect of finding summer employment is even bleaker for South Carolina and Georgia teens - only 37 percent landed jobs in South Carolina last year, and only 32 percent were successful in Georgia.
"The job outlook for teens in South Carolina and Georgia is more severe this year than the national outlook," said Andrew Sum, the author of the study. "Teens are usually the last to benefit from any job growth, and Georgia and South Carolina employment rates have been beat up pretty bad."
But fewer teens are applying for jobs in Georgia. A Junior Achievement poll released Thursday found that although 29.2 percent of teens across the country will work this summer, only 18.2 percent of Georgia's teens will bother to apply.
The study noted that Georgia's HOPE scholarship, which would lessen the need for students to earn money to pay for college, might be the reason.
While the job market looks grim for most teens this summer, some seasonable positions remain hard to fill, said Ryan Sullivan, 21, a lifeguard at Richardson's Lake Water Park in Aiken.
He said it wasn't hard to get his job.
"They advertised for this job, but I think fewer people apply because you have to take a lot of classes to get certified," he said. "Not everyone can do it."
Lamar Breaker, 16, said he started his summer job search too late, and it took him almost two months to find his job as a checkout clerk at Publix grocery store in Aiken.
"I think next summer I'll start earlier," he said.
Reach Peter G. Gilchrist at (803) 648-1395 or firstname.lastname@example.org.