School is out, and Aaron Stallings, his junior year of high school behind him, wanders the air-conditioned cocoon of the Woodland Hills Mall in search of a job.
Mr. Stallings, 18, says he has been looking for three months, burning gasoline to get to the mall, then filling out applications at stores selling skateboard T-shirts, beach sandals and baseball caps. He likes the idea of working amid the goods he covets. But so far, no offers.
"I'm going to go to Iraq and get a job," he says acidly. "I hear they've got cheap gas." He grins. "I'm just playing. But I've been all over, and nobody's hiring. They just say, 'We'll call you tomorrow.' And no one ever calls back."
As the forces of economic downturn ripple widely across the United States, the job market of 2008 is shaping up as the weakest in more than half a century for teenagers looking for summer work, according to labor economists, government data and companies that hire young people.