President's Budget Includes Subsidized Employment and Job Training Opportunities

Feb 14, 2012

By Elizabeth Lower-Basch

Even as the job market begins to slowly recover, low-skilled workers continue to struggle and have unemployment rates significantly higher than the national average.

President Obama's budget blueprint released Monday lays out spending priorities for the nation. The proposal calls for Congress to support employment and job training opportunities for unemployed workers through the Pathways Back to Work Fund.  This proposal indicates that the president recognizes that the economic recovery must be inclusive to be complete.   

The president first called for funds for subsidized jobs last September when he announced the American Jobs Act. It called for $5 billion in funding to be divided among subsidized employment for unemployed, low-income adults, jobs for low-income youth, and competitive grants for work-based training.  The new proposal increases this two-and-a-half fold to $12.5 billion, with $2.5 billion designated for summer and year-round jobs for youth, and $10 billion for subsidized employment and training for adults.

Although the most recent jobs report showed a slight drop in the unemployment rate, subsidized jobs and training for low-skill adults and youth are still badly needed.  In January 2012, more than 5.5 million workers had been unemployed for six months or longer, and the average duration of unemployment was nine months.  Workers with the least skills have the highest unemployment rates.

Many studies show that the longer workers are out of a job, the harder it is for them to get hired.  In some cases, displaced workers may have skills specialized for jobs that no longer exist, while in other cases employers may simply be discriminating against unemployed workers.  Unemployment can also have negative effects on health and housing stability, which in turn affect employability.

Workers who have been unemployed for long periods and young workers who have to compete with displaced older workers for even entry-level jobs need targeted assistance to have a fair opportunity to share in the recovery and economic growth. The president's budget sets the right priority for training workers hardest hit by the weak jobs market.

The Pathways Back to Work Fund has been incorporated in legislation in both the House (H.R. 3425, introduced by Rep. Miller) and Senate (S. 1861, introduced by Sen. Blumenthal). Congress, too, should do the right thing and pass these bills to give the most disadvantaged workers the opportunity to access jobs and gain the skills and training they need to maintain employment.

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