Many businesses in downtown New Canaan are turning away young job hunters this summer.

"Unfortunately we didn't have any positions this summer," said Gina Bonilla, the operations manager at Garelick & Herb.

"Usually we're able to hire," she said.

According to Bonilla, the business usually receives about 10 applications at the beginning of summertime. Last year she was able to hire two temporary workers for the summer, one of which returned to work at the Main Street eatery.

"The economy is still tough," she said. "And we're trying to work with what we have."

Hiring temporary employees can be costly for local businesses according to William Alpert, a professor of economics at the University of Connecticut at Stamford.

"There's an upfront cost of hiring somebody, no matter how many hours a week they work," said Alpert, who specializes in labor markets.

"There's hiring costs and there's replacement cost. You know this person is going to leave. And when you hire someone, you have all the paperwork to hire them. Plus you have to pay the payroll tax, unemployment tax and all that good stuff," he said.

"Even a server in a restaurant is going to have to be trained," Alpert said. "They're going to have to walk around behind somebody for at lease a few nights and they're going to cut that person's productivity."

So for small businesses, it makes sense to invest in full-time, permanent employees, Alpert said. And with the current unemployment rate teetering at 9.5 percent, retailers and restaurants can find skilled employees willing to work, he said.

"We're in the midst of probably the worst recession since the Great Depression," he said. "Teenagers, particularly high school kids, generally have very few skills to offer, and they have to be trained."

The majority of the workforce at Garelick & Herbs is composed of men and women in their mid-to-late 20s, according to Bonilla.

At the New Canaan Diner on Forest Street, Manager Julio Sequeira said he likes hiring students.

"When you get students, they're really good. They're in school-mode and their brains are nice and fresh," he said. This summer he hired four teenagers to help staff the diner during the busy season.

"We had a lot of kids apply, and we took what we could, but we still have a lot of applications," he said.

Nineteen-year-old Desbina Tsartsabalidis of Stamford has been working at the diner since it opened in December.

"I was looking for a job until it opened, but my aunt owns the place and she hired me," she said.

Before taking the waitressing job, the 2008 Stamford High School graduate was without a job for about a year.

"I would apply places, but no one would hire me," she said. "I looked in retail; at a gym. Anywhere. I had waitressing experience, but I wouldn't get one call back."

Tsartsabalidis said she has several friends who are looking for work right now.

Oskar Harmon, another economics professor at UConn Stamford surveyed one of his summer economics classes this year and found that 20 percent of his students were taking the summer class because they could not find work.

That's to be expected in a loose labor market, according to Alpert.

"Basically, businesses are hiring, they're just not hiring very many people and they can be selective about who they hire," he said.

Retail is another hot market for teenage job hunters. At Togs on Elm Street, the owner, Mary Jane Setter has turned away about seven prospective employees so far this summer, she said.

It's about the same amount of young applicants that filed in her shop's doors looking for work last summer, she said.

"We have a lot of college kids here that know what to do," she said. "Some of our girls have been working here since high school, and they come back each year."

Repeat summer workers add some certainty to any otherwise uncertain market.

"Basically, you've got a lot of uncertainty as to whether customers are going to show up next week," Alpert said. "There's a huge amount of uncertainty out there."