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Seasonal unemployment is a type of working arrangement in which a person is employed routinely for part of the year, but spends the remaining months or weeks without a job. This situation is most commonly associated with temporary, weather-dependent jobs like lifeguarding and some construction work. Tourism jobs related to specific seasons, as well as more sporadic employment in seasonal groups like theater companies, may also fall into this category. These sorts of jobs usually revolve around fixed calendars such that employees both know and understand exactly when they will be out of work. In many cases, seasonal employees can collect government-sponsored unemployment benefits in their off-seasons.
Structured and Generally Predictable Schedule
The defining characteristic of seasonal unemployment is its predictability. In nearly all cases, workers accept these sorts of jobs with full knowledge that they are only temporary.
Employees are typically laid off on a pre-arranged date, but the arrangement is designed to be cyclical. Most of the people who hold these jobs know that work will be waiting for them at certain future points, and reapplication is not usually required. Once the season picks back up, the jobs return.
Jobs that are dependent upon certain weather conditions are some of the most common candidates for temporary unemployment. Snow plow operators, ski slope staff, lifeguards and beach managers are but a few examples. Some types of construction work and exterior painting jobs also fit into this category.
Tourism and Seasonal Travel Scenarios
A number of tourism-related jobs are limited to a certain location’s “busy” season, which can subject them to seasonal unemployment, as well. Many of the world’s most sought-after travel destinations have certain times of year that are much busier than others. Some of this has to do with the season — summer is almost always a busy time — but much is also related to weather patterns. Regions subject to rainy seasons or stifling heat are often less popular during these periods. Most hotels and resorts will keep some staff employed during these “low” times, but they rarely operate at full capacity.
Theatrical and Other Limited-Run Employees
Actors, performers, and professional athletes often experience seasonal unemployment for certain portions of the year. Some theaters launch shows on a continuous basis, but most have certain scheduled “dark” periods. The same is true with ballet companies and other performing arts groups.
Those who play professional sports also typically have an off-season, which can lead to temporary joblessness. This is rarely a problem for very high profile athletes, whose paychecks during game-time are usually very generous. For amateurs or those who have yet to break into national leagues, however, necessary periods of rest during the off-season can be financially challenging.
Teachers are one of the biggest exceptions to the seasonal unemployment rule. Most schoolteachers work only during the academic year, and enjoy summers that are basically free. Teachers are not laid off before the summer months, however, nor are they considered “unemployed” during this time. Many school districts space out teacher paychecks so that they are actually being paid over the summer months, even though they may not be actively involved in the classroom.
Other school employees — school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and librarians, to name a few — do not usually come within this umbrella, however. Many of these sorts of jobs are subject to seasonal unemployment, though much depends on the district and the local rules.
Possibility of Unemployment Benefits
Seasonal employees are often eligible to collect government-sponsored unemployment benefits for the periods of time in which they are not working. Whether or not benefits are available is entirely dependent upon the local government. In some places, seasonal employees are not eligible to collect anything; in others, money is available but in smaller amounts than for the long-term unemployed. Most governments try to keep seasonal unemployment and regular unemployment allocations separate for reporting purposes, usually to ensure that unemployment rankings reflect only those people with no job at all.