American Jobs Act Addresses Youth Unemployment At Crucial Time

Sep 09, 2011

By Kisha Bird

The President's jobs plan includes proposals for youth employment at a crucial time for America's young people. Youth and young adults under age 25 represent about one-third of the unemployed. Over 3.6 million youth in this age group are unemployed and this summer was the worst on record for teen employment since World War II. The situation is especially bleak for youth of color, who face much higher unemployment rates than their white counterparts; a mere 18.5 percent of Latinos and 14 percent of blacks were employed last month, compared to 32.4 percent of whites. The President's American Jobs Act addresses the youth unemployment crisis in a serious way.

By proposing a new Pathways Back to Work Fund, the American Jobs Act would provide thousands of summer and year-round jobs to low-income youth.  Investments would build off the success of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that put nearly 360,000 young people to work, and provided them with critical job-training, leadership skills and needed social supports.  The Pathways Back to Work Fund would also build on local expertise and innovation to ensure youth timely access to work-based and job-training options.

CLASP has consistently called for a Comprehensive Youth Employment Strategy to ensure youth and young adults are connected to short- and long-term job creation, as well as calling for the reinstatement of a federally funded summer jobs program, which for over 30 years provided key work experience and subsidized jobs to our country's most disadvantaged youth. It's especially important that funding is targeted to communities with the highest need -- those with high youth unemployment and large numbers of low-income youth with limited education and jobs skills. 

Researchers have noted the benefits of early work experience and jobs for youth and their families and communities. Jobs keep young people connected to constructive activities, especially important during the summer months when idleness can lead to involvement in crime or other negative behaviors.  Youth jobs also have positive educational benefits. Disadvantaged teens who work during high school are more likely to remain in school.

Investing in youth jobs works. Public sector job creation programs for young people create more net jobs per slot than for any other age group.

We hope that the President's proposal to support pathways to work for low-income youth remains a fundamental component of the jobs package considered by Congress. These critical investments will help to fuel our economy now and prepare youth to fill our skilled jobs in the future. 

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