Students struggle to find jobs as seasonal worker positions decrease

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Photo Credit: Jamie Hwang | Daily Texan Staff

Students are coming across fewer available job positions after demand for seasonal workers dropped during the pandemic.

The University Co-op hired 24 fewer seasonal workers this semester in anticipation of decreased sales from the pandemic, President and CEO Cheryl Phifer said. The Perry-Castañeda Library also saw a decrease in student worker employment, which fell from 198 in the spring semester to 30 this semester.

“With most of our branch locations closing down … we just don’t need the student workforce right now for the services and resources we are providing,” said Travis Willmann, communications officer for UT Libraries. 

Grace Allen, a former seasonal worker at the University Co-op, said she was let go from her position after three weeks of work and now fears she may not find another job to cover rent and car payments.

“Whenever they hired me, they told me it could be from two to three weeks of work or up to a month or two months,” said Allen, an international relations and global studies senior. “It just sucks because I only got two paychecks, and that was it.”

 

In a semester, the University Co-op does about 40% of its business in the first 30 days of school, and some seasonal workers stay on later for home football game rushes, Phifer said. The Co-op received less customers than anticipated this semester because of low game attendance, Phifer said. 

“(Seasonal workers being let go) is a thing that will happen and does happen every year,” Phifer said. “(Every year) we do continue with some of the seasonal employees, but not all of our seasonal employees continue into football season.”

After being let go last week, Allen said she feels guilty during her free time because she needs to keep looking for jobs.

“I haven’t heard anything back from anyone, but I’m not surprised,” Allen said. “(We’re) in the middle of a pandemic. Hardly anyone is hiring. … I’m worried about finding a new job, and then down the road during the semester they could lay people off if the pandemic happens to (get) worse.”

Kit Hagin, an urban studies and sustainability junior, said he was working at the PCL when the pandemic hit. Hagin was offered remote work for the rest of the semester but declined and anticipated being rehired for the summer and fall semesters. However, the front desk student position Hagin wanted to apply for no longer exists, Willmann said.

“I’ve applied to about 15-20 jobs since (March), and I only ever got one or two responses,” Hagin said. “Even now, I’ve only been able to find weekend work.”

Hagin said he worries about not finding a job because he needs money to pay off his student loans in the future.

“In one way it makes me anxious, but in another way it’s almost so out of my control at this point, why even bother worrying,” Hagin said. “It’s scary, but it’s also calming that I don’t know and nobody knows, and there’s nothing I can do about it. At a certain point, your anxiety just burns out.”