It used to be that summer jobs were within reach of all willing and able job seekers, most of whom were students looking for a steady gig to earn gas money or fuel the old college fund.

But as we tumble through an economic downturn that has the whispers of “recession” growing loud enough to draw the ire of even the most laid back librarian, that’s all changed.

In fact, according to a recent survey, nearly half (49%) of traditional hourly hiring standbys, including retailers and restaurants, report they won’t be adding summer workers this year. In addition to the crumby economy, your employer peers cite a growing belief that teen workers aren’t bringing their ‘A’ game to the workplace. What's it all mean? For starters, the age of your average lemonade stand worker may rise about 10 years this summer. So will the price of lemonade.

These findings might have you thinking that, if you are planning on hiring summer workers, you can afford to put off your recruitment efforts because there will still be plenty of job seekers left by the time you need one. Think again.

Here are a few tips to ensure your seasonal hiring goes without a hitch:

1. Get out of the gates early.
A whopping 76 percent of the 1,000 hiring managers interviewed in the survey expect to fill their seasonal jobs by May. Sure, you’ll still be able to hire workers in mid-June – but not the coveted workplace superstars you really need.

2. Sell your perks.
When it’s hot and sunny, workers want to be on vacation, not at work. So why not make them feel like they’re on vacation – or at least not at work? If you’re looking for landscapers, hype the benefit of working outdoors. If you’re hiring theme park or movie theater workers, be sure to mention the discounted passes. Sure, it’s not free ice cream cones and 24/7 mini golf, but these perks can make the difference between a top notch candidate choosing your summer job and someone else’s.

3. Cash in on returns.
Hourly workers, especially students, love having a seasonal job they can consistently return to. It saves them time, and often puts more cash in their pocket because they’re not wasting time with a new job search every time school lets out. You should embrace the opportunity to invite your superstar workers to stay in touch and return to work as it’s convenient for both of you.

So if you haven’t started advertising your summer jobs, get to it. All the top, motivated job seekers are already cruising the job websites, mall food courts and newspaper classifieds. You can't afford to wait for the procrastinators.

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