Weekly Round-Up: February Employment Data, the Dropout Crisis, and International Women's Day

Mar 09, 2012

Select CLASP blog posts and other highlights

Employers created 227,000 jobs in February, but because of an increase in the labor force, unemployment remained at 8.3 percent.

Unemployment rose for blacks to 14.1 percent—nearly double the white unemployment rate. Those with low-skills and little education also have disproportionately higher unemployment rates. Unemployment for workers without a high school degree or equivalent is 12.9 percent.

The nation still needs a comprehensive jobs creation plan, which should include programs aimed at low-income and low-skill workers. Transitional jobs, which combine temporary subsidized jobs with case management, job readiness and skills-building activities, have proven successful. CLASP highlights the success of Chicago Neighborhood JobStart, which ran in the summer of 2010 and placed 1,518 participants in temporary jobs. Participants said the jobs allowed them to support their families and pay their bills, and a majority of the youth participants went on to enroll in education or another employment program. 

Besides immediate solutions such as transitional jobs, the nation also must address the dropout crisis and make sure vulnerable youth have access to and complete their education. One in four students fails to finish high school on time, and in the most at-risk communities, the number jumps to one in two. In Addressing the Dropout Crisis with a Change in Policy and Thinking, CLASP discussed why the nation's focus on four- year high school graduation rates leaves many vulnerable youth behind. Instead, it says districts should expand its measure of success to also include extended-year graduation rates, which capture what the four-year rates don't: the number of students who are able to graduate despite taking an extra year or two to do so.

 Also this week was International Women's Day, which offers a chance to celebrate women's many advances and take stock of the progress yet to be realized. Even in our very wealthy nation, poverty remains a pressing issue for women. Four in 10 women heads of household live in poverty, and the total number of U.S. women in poverty is 17.2 million - its highest level in 17 years. In this difficult economy, safety net programs can help families make ends meet as they search for employment or access to education and training opportunities.  

And more...

  • In his blog This Week in Poverty, the Nation's Greg Kaufmann looks at welfare reform and the struggling state of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) today. Alabama is even considering ending its participation in TANF entirely, which would lead 54,000 people to lose needed assistance.
  • Center on Budget and Policy Priorities launched a week-long series, Under $2 a Day in America, on the National Poverty Center's recent report exploring extreme poverty.  
  • The D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute released a report showing the nation's capital continues to have one of the largest gaps between rich and poor in the country.  
  • A new report from Urban Institute explores how low-income, working parents consider work constraints like low wages and inflexibility in making child care decisions.
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