- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003


   District officials are joining with private employers to find jobs for young people this summer as the unemployment rate climbs.
   Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday announced an Internet-based youth employment service that matches private employers with young people looking for summer jobs.
   He acknowledged the tough situation faced by teenage job seekers this summer.
   “Obviously the private sector is in a pinch because of the economy,” said Mr. Williams, who spoke at a summer youth employment conference sponsored by the Greater Washington Board of Trade.
   The “pinch” ultimately falls on the youths who work in amusement parks, fast-food outlets, stores and as lifeguards and baby sitters.
   Unlike past summers, teenagers looking for summer jobs are finding that adults confronting a weak economy have gotten there first.
   Unemployment rose to 6 percent last month, from 5.8 percent in March, the Labor Department reported yesterday.
   As a result, adults are being forced to take the low-paying service jobs traditionally held by teens. The job market will only worsen for youths as laid-off workers exhaust their unemployment benefits and look for any available work that will pay the bills.
   Fast-food restaurants and store owners in Washington say they already are seeing the trend toward adults competing for the jobs normally held by their children.
   “Most of the people recently applying are older people who have been in the work force a long time,” said John Faraj, owner of the Great Steak and Potato Company in Union Station.
   He tells them, “If you’re qualified, we’ll call you.” But he added, “We prefer younger people.”
   Upstairs at Douglas Cosmetics, the only summer jobs the store normally has available are for one cashier and one stock clerk.
   Nevertheless, about half the job applications are submitted by adults.
   “If you look at the resumes, they have tons of experience and it’s not retail,” store manager Melanie Drakeford said. “They’re all industry, white-collar jobs.”
   Just 69.5 percent of youth ages 16 to 24 were in the labor force in July, the lowest rate since 1971, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
   This summer is shaping up to be worse.
   A survey by Junior Achievement Inc., an organization that helps educate young people about business and economics, found that 80 percent of teenagers want paying jobs this summer.
   However, fewer jobs are available to them, partly because of competition with adults who are becoming desperate.
   “Nobody wins in that situation,” said Greg Roberts, president of D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. “The parents take the jobs with no benefits and the children are not working at all.”
   Government analysts say more youths are enrolling in summer school and choosing not to work after becoming frustrated in trying to find a job.
   The D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. helps operate the District’s Internet youth employment site at www.summerkidsdc.org.
   Last year, the District’s federally funded summer program employed more than 5,000 young people. It had about 8,000 applicants.
   This summer, the same program has funds for only 2,500 jobs.
   “Five thousand already signed up, and growing,” Mr. Roberts said.
   With less government funding available, D.C. officials turned to private employers for help.
   “This is the first time we have gone to the business community to get them to help us,” Mr. Roberts said about the District’s summer jobs program.
   Among companies participating in the program is Safeway.
   Karl Schroeder, Safeway’s Eastern Division president, said the grocery-store chain plans to hire about 60 teens for summer jobs in the Washington area this year.
   He described the jobs as learning experiences as much as income opportunities.
   “There are mentors in our stores,” Mr. Schroeder said.
   Architecture students, for example, could work for a summer stocking shelves and return later to help design other grocery stores Safeway plans to open, he said.
   

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