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New Report Shows Summer Jobs Scarce for Teenagers

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wamc/local-wamc-969395.mp3

Pittsfield, MA – The report by Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies, titled "The Steep Decline in Teen Summer Employment in the U.S., 2000-2010 and the Bleak Outlook for the 2011 Summer Teen Job Market," shows the employment rate for the nation's teens dropped nearly 19 percentage points, from nearly 46 percent to just under 27 percent, in the last ten years.

Last year's average annual employment rate for teens was the lowest recorded since World War II, and from 2007 to 2010 the summer employment rate dropped to record lows, with only 26 percent of teens securing seasonal jobs last year.

Lew Finfer, an organizer with the Massachusetts statewide Youth Jobs Coalition, said there are three reasons why summer jobs have become harder to get.

"The federal government had funded 8,700 jobs for youth out of the stimulus money. It was brought up to a specific vote and they voted not to continue that."

"We're facing a possible 50 percent cut in the state's youth jobs funding program, and then you have the continuing recession that makes less private sector opportunities available for teens."

As part of the state's budget process, the state House of Representatives has passed their recommended amount of $6 million for youth jobs funding, down from $8 million in 2010.

Today the Senate Ways and Means Committee proposed no additional funding to the program, cutting it down to $4 million, an amount Finfer said was "disappointing" considering the 1,100 young residents who rallied at the Statehouse this February to support the program.

"There is a big budget deficit the state has, but revenue numbers have improved some. There are hard times but a program that's this important and this needed, a 50 percent cut is really very disappointing.

Heather Shogry-Williams is the Youth Director at the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board, which places at-risk youth in summer jobs through their summer Youth Works program.
"It's just so important as early as possible in a youth's life to really start to develop those essential foundational skills that will carry them through any job they have for the rest of their lives."

Pittsfield is the only municipality in Berkshire County that qualifies to receive state subsidies for the program based on juvenile delinquency rates.

Last summer the program received funding to place 49 youths at positions in 25 businesses, non-profits and public agencies in the city.

This year they are estimated to receive just over $40,000 to place 21 youths at nine city organizations, at least one of which has requested more young employees than the program can provide.

"They would like to take anywhere from eight to ten youths. They're not going to get that many kids unless we get more funding but we thought that was wonderful that they wanted that many."

There is a waiting list every year for those seeking a job through the program. The board has also organized a "Jobs for Youth" campaign for the second time this summer where they ask city employers if they are either able to take on seasonal youth employees without a subsidy or if they would be willing to donate to the campaign.

"We didn't have as many takers as we would've liked, but I think just given the nature of the economy right now it's just difficult for employers to have funding available to hire on youth for summer employment."

While the outlook for this summer appears bleak, Shogy-Williams said there are better days for potential youth workers on the horizon.

"Not only do I think there could be more funding for those subsidized programs like Youth Works, but I just think in general more employers will have the opportunity to hire on more teens for summer work experiences."

"There used to be a ton of jobs for youth, especially throughout the summer 10 and 15 years ago. I anticipate we'll get back to the levels of where we were."

Finfer said advocates will continue to push to restore funding to the program as the Senate begins negotiating the budget in the coming weeks.