- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Prospects don’t look good for America’s youngest job seekers.

Youths prowling online and pounding the pavement for summer jobs are not alone — out-of-work adults are in the job hunt, too. But the economy, despite its recent signs of strength, already has drained three-quarters of the economic-stimulus package’s summer jobs.

Last year, Congress allotted $1.2 billion in the federal stimulus package for summer youth employment and training programs, but the Labor Department says 75 percent of those funds have already been spent. The House approved legislation for a similar program, but the Senate voted it down in March.

Far fewer federal dollars mean the pressure falls to states and localities to subsidize stimulus-funded jobs that provided work or training for nearly 320,00 teens and young adults.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is pairing $4 million in state funds with $2 million in leftover stimulus funds left to create 7,000 summer jobs. But even that falls short of the 12,000 jobs in 2009 that was funded with only federal dollars.

The tough labor market that began before the recession has translated into a highly competitive environment for young people, although the declining employment numbers actually began a decade ago.

In 2000, 59.5 percent of young people ages 16 to 24 held summer jobs. The percentage fell to 46.8 percent in 2009, according to the Labor Department.

And while the Labor’s Department’s monthly report for April, which was released last week, shows employers added 290,000 jobs, the biggest jump in four years, teens and young adults are still in for a hard slog as they wrestle for jobs in places like Michigan, which has the nation’s highest unemployment at 14.1 percent; Nevada, 13.4 percent; California and Rhode Island, both at 12.6 percent; Florida, with a 12.3 percent jobless rate; and the District of Columbia, which is at 11.6 percent.

The loss of summer jobs for youths concerns some reseachers.

“The decline is worrisome because a large body of research shows that those who do not hold a job as teenagers often fail to develop the work habits necessary to function in the labor market, creating significant negative consequence for them later in life,” said researcher Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies, which will release its new study on teen employment Wednesday.

• Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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