Summer hiring is expected to rise sharply

FORTUNE — The dreary employment numbers announced last week masked one scrap of good news for job-seeking teens (and their parents): The number of companies looking to bring on extra help for the summer has risen sharply over last year, and average pay for these positions, at $11.50 an hour (up from $10.90 in 2012), is at its highest point in six years.

So says the latest annual survey of summer hiring from Snagajob, a job site for hourly workers which posts openings at hundreds of companies, including Home Depot (HD), Dunkin Donuts (DNKN), Marshalls (TJX), Pizza Hut (YUM), and Toys R Us. The number of hiring managers who don’t plan to add any summer staff has dropped from 45% to 31%, according to the poll of about 1,000 employers, and those expanding their summer payrolls plan to add an average of 30 seasonal workers, up from 27 last year.

One in three (33%) of hiring managers say it will be “easy” for teens to find a job this year — 4% more than last year and a 13% increase since 2010.

“This should be the best summer for hourly workers we’ve seen in several years,” notes Jason Hamilton, a Snagajob vice president.

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That may seem surprising, considering that retailers, a major source of seasonal work, shed 24,000 jobs in March, more than any other single sector of the economy. But some analysts see that drop in employment as a temporary blip, brought on by unusually cold weather in many parts of the U.S. that put a damper on spring sales at clothing stores and home-improvement emporiums. A more encouraging sign for summer: Recent upticks in personal income and household spending, which could translate into more shopping, vacationing, and eating out in the warmer months ahead.

First-time job hunters are especially welcome this year, as the Snagajob survey says most hiring managers expect fewer former employees to return than in 2012. “It’s one of the best summers we’ve seen for new job seekers to get a foot in the door,” says Hamilton. Asked what they look for in applicants, employers ranked a positive attitude No. 1, followed by “willingness to work the schedule a manager needs.” Previous experience came in third.

Anyone hoping to land a summer gig should start applying right away: More than half of seasonal hiring happens in the next six weeks, the survey says. Companies expect to fill 77% of their openings by the end of May.

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