Mixed Reactions To Teen Jobs Stimulus Effort

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
September 30, 2009

Despite the federal government's considerable efforts to help teenagers secure jobs this past summer, experts say few new lasting opportunities for youth were created as a result. Yet others involved in the program counter that many teens benefited greatly from the initiative.

The Associated Press reports that the more than $1.2 billion in federal stimulus funds "barely made a dent" in the bleak job market for teens, in part because more unemployed adults were competing for the same positions. Since the program began in May, nearly 25 percent of the 279,169 youth who enrolled in stimulus-funded work programs remains unemployed.

"There are an amazing number of kids out there looking for work," said Andrew M. Sum, an economics professor at Northeastern University who was quoted by The New York Times earlier this month. "And given that unemployment is a lagging indicator, and young people's unemployment even lags behind the rest of unemployment, we're going to see a lot of kids out of work for a long, long, long, long time."

In August, the teenage unemployment rate was 25.5 percent, its highest level since the government began keeping track of unemployment statistics in 1948.

The AP noted some problems encountered by the summer program, including in Pennsylvania and Connecticut, where bureaucratic red tape prevented some youth from entering training programs until July. In California, meanwhile, less than half the participants reported getting jobs by the end of July.

Laura Chick, who was appointed by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to watch over the state's stimulus funds, told the AP that funds did not easily reach the population for which it was intended. To qualify for the program, job seekers had to be 14 to 24 years old and from families living at or below the poverty line.

Yet not all of the feedback has been negative. California's Chico Enterprise-Record reports that more than 300 youth ages 16 to 24 found jobs through the stimulus summer jobs program. Of those who found jobs, nine enrolled in college and four now have full-time jobs.

"I was very pleased with the local program, honestly," said Bob Lackey, a youth case work manager who was involved in the program. He noted that the majority of teens who participated had never held a job before.

And the Kansas City Star [from an article originally located at http://www.kansascity.com/business/story/1477302.html] reports that about 1,200 area youth and adults took part in the program, working for $8 an hour for 32 hours a week over two months. Those who successfully completed their jobs were eligible for $1,000 scholarships to community colleges and vocations schools, and $500 book scholarships for those attending four-year colleges.

Clyde McQueen, chief executive of Missouri's Full Employment Council, called the stimulus funding a godsend. "It really provided a direct benefit, with young people receiving a paycheck that allows them to spend money as well as save for their future education," he said.

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