Financial Market – The Hottest Job Market? Snow Shoveling
This week’s blizzard turned into a windfall for intrepid teenagers who discovered the old-fashioned rewards of shoveling snow—for big bucks due to a flurry of demand.Kyle Barreto, a 17-year-old in Brooklyn who started shoveling this winter, said he used to be addicted to lounging with videogames and television. But after months trapped indoors by the pandemic, he jumped to join a friend seeking snow jobs during the storm. Working from dawn until 11 p.m. in temperatures that dipped into the 20s Monday, they made about $500 to share. They were at it again on Tuesday, despite sore backs and arms. “I used to sit home all day,” Kyle said. “I finally have something to do.”
His mom, Melissa Lopez, was thrilled. “I’m excited he’s off the couch,” she said.
As the storm pounded the Northeast, homeowners scrambled to find help digging out via friends and social media. Many weren’t ready for such a rapid pileup. The National Weather Service said some spots near New York City saw more than two feet of snow by Tuesday morning.
Some of the desperate paid hundreds of dollars to get the blustery job done.
The average price for snow removal hit $150 for a townhouse in the city Monday, and $190 for a standard suburban home, according to Shovler, an app that matches clients with snow job-seekers. On top of that, tips averaged $25, with some as high as $99.
Shovler Chief Executive Daniel Miller said at least 1,000 jobs were completed in the New York metropolitan area Monday, and thousands more were expected Tuesday and Wednesday. The rates, he said, are the highest since the company started in 2016. Quick accumulation, snow depth, temperatures and size of the property factored into pricing on the app, he said. At times on Monday, New York City was getting 2 inches or more of snow an hour.
“The snow accumulation is very large so it is only fair to compensate shovelers more for their work,” Mr. Miller said by email.
He said the average price for shoveling a driveway that parks four cars, a medium sidewalk, and medium walkway on Tuesday was $200, compared with $55 for the storm of Jan. 18, 2020.
Chris Vazquez, a 17-year-old senior at Xaverian High School in Brooklyn who recruited his friend Kyle to work with him on a day school was closed, said his dad posted his phone number in a neighborhood
page, and then someone reposted it in another one. By noon Monday Chris had 15 job offers. On Tuesday the duo had at least seven more bookings.
Chris Vazquez, left, and Kyle Barreto shoveled Tuesday in Brooklyn.
Chris said he usually charged $20 to $100 for stoops and sidewalks, depending on size. His only equipment: “Just good old muscle and a good shovel.”
Joe Pastore, who is in his 60s and needed help clearing a large sidewalk in front of his house in Brooklyn, was relieved to find the pair after striking out with other efforts. He expected to pay at least $100 and waxed nostalgic for his youth when kids were all expected to shovel for their parents free of charge.
“There’s not that many young kids to help out like years ago,” he said. “I want to get a condo. It’s too much. Every time this happens my wife tells me we have to sell.”
Some people looking for help had left New York City due to the coronavirus pandemic and so couldn’t tackle the walkways at the empty homes they temporarily left behind. By city rules, homeowners and businesses can face fines if they don’t clear their sidewalks within a certain number of hours.
Susie Sonneborn, who lives in Montclair, N.J., wanted her teenage sons to clear snow for two New York City families who had just bought houses nearby but hadn’t moved in yet. She wasn’t sure what would be an appropriate charge. “I don’t want to extort anyone but it’s brutal work,” she said.
Her 13-year-old son, Wylie Blim, said he was happy getting $15 to $20 for a sidewalk and path to the doorway. He said he would be game to ask neighbors if they wanted help, but “I’m a little uncomfortable knocking on doors because of Covid.”
Susie Sonneborn, right, and her son Caleb Blim shovel snow outside their house in Montclair, N.J. on Monday.
Leslie Brody/The Wall Street Journal
Ben Horrigan, a 17-year-old in Montclair, said he found that he fared better if he let homeowners name the price. “They’re usually more generous than I am to myself,” he said. “Usually they’ll say, ‘Is $40 good?’ when I would have said $20 or $30.”
Ben said a store owner would pay him about $100 to keep its sidewalk clear, and his parents paid him $30 for the driveway. What about parents who expect their own kids to do it free? “Well, fortunately that’s not the case here,” he said.
Kevin Williams, a 17-year-old in Chatham, N.J., earned $100 for clearing a neighbor’s driveway for three hours Monday night, when snow was about two-feet deep. He said he had planned to volunteer for his high school’s community service club, but the neighbor wanted to pay him because the job was so huge. In a previous storm, about two years ago, he got $60 for the same site.
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He likes shoveling better than a job he had in eighth grade, when he made $1,200 putting up Christmas lights for a half-dozen homes. Twigs fell in his eyes, and to string the lights properly he couldn’t wear gloves.
Shoveling “is not too hard, to the point where I despise it,” he said.
In some affluent neighborhoods, teenagers found their business had dried up in recent years because so many homeowners bought snowblowers. “It’s a perfect case study for how automation has affected the workforce,” said Marcus Brotman, a 17-year-old in Westfield, N.J. An avid shoveler in middle school, he remembered making $100 on a regular snowy day.
Marcus didn’t really miss the backbreaking labor in the bitter cold, however. “Now I’m a lifeguard,” he said. “I can make $100 by sitting in a chair in the sun.”
Write to Leslie Brody at [email protected]
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Financial Market – The Hottest Job Market? Snow Shoveling