Saturday, July 26, 2008

and now for a national look at higher teen unemployment

Some solid analysis from Bret Schulte in U.S. News & World Report...

The first few months of 2008 brought a bloody wave of violence to Brockton, Mass., a city of about 100,000 just south of Boston. Officials noted a surge in gang activity among young people just as the economy had begun to struggle.

In March, city leaders hatched a plan. Volunteers gathered to dial up local employers and ask them to hire young people for the summer. "To give them a few pennies in their pockets and keep them off the streets, hopefully," says organizer Sheila Sullivan-Jardim of the Brockton Area Workforce Investment Board. In return, civic groups pledged to teach the teens basic work etiquette and skills. In six hours, the telethon had secured pledges for 110 jobs, including 15 for the Brockton Rox baseball team. Fifty-five more soon followed.

Those 165 jobs may not seem like much, but cities like Brockton are desperate to occupy as many teens as possible in a summer shaping up to have the worst youth employment rate on record. The Center for Labor Market Studies of Northeastern University forecasts that summer teen employment will not rise above 34 percent. That's the worst jobless rate for teens in the past 61 years.

The problem is partly due to the weakening of a federal summer jobs program but also to immigrants competing for low-skill jobs, retirees and seniors re-entering the workforce, and a recent economic slump that has more experienced workers fighting for downscale jobs....

All this has prompted calls for more help from Washington. More than 140 mayors have signed a letter to Congress pleading for it to pass a $1 billion authorization bill for youth activities. But the first attempt failed, and support on Capitol Hill remains scant. Mark it up as another unfilled summer job.

Oh great, let's try to solve local problems with federal solutions!


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