Summer Unemployment for Teens May Hit All-Time High

By Nora Fleming — May 04, 2011 2 min read
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High school and college students from Chicago’s South Side expressed concern about finding summer jobs to several state legislators at a summit on teenage unemployment on Monday. According to the Chicago Tribune, there will be a loss of 18,000 summer jobs for young people in Illinois due to federal funding cuts, which have reduced or eliminated many city and state youth-employment programs around the country.

According to the National Summer Learning Association, the summer months are a peak time for academic learning loss and delinquent behavior, particularly for low-income youths. In addition to providing an income, summer jobs for at-risk teens often help promote responsibility, hands-on learning, and skill development during time that might otherwise be spent listlessly.

The teenage-unemployment rate in Illinois alone has jumped to 27.5 percent, leaving many young people without income their families were relying on, news sources say. The Huffington Post reported that the state’s unemployment rate has had a 67 percent increase since 2005.

But the high rates of teen unemployment are not unique to Illinois. A study released by the Center for Labor Market Studies last month examined teen summer-employment rates from 2000 to 2010 and found the teenage-employment rate in 2010 was the lowest it’s been since World War II, and estimated only one in four teenagers looking for a job will find one this coming summer. While the unemployment rates have generally been high for all age brackets, teenagers have been the hardest hit, the report says, with black males from underprivileged communities faring the worst.

Last summer, California Watch reported that one in three California teens who wanted a job, couldn’t get one, as the state teen-unemployment rate doubled to what it was in 2000, nearly 10 percent higher than the national average.

Teenagers have faced the brunt of the recession’s impact because older adults and professionals are now competing for entry-level jobs young people once held, and federal and state cuts have reduced youth-employment programs across the country that help many find work.

But the news isn’t all grim. New York’s Summer Youth Employment Program was recently on the state budget chopping block, but according to the Times Union this week, funding for the most part will be maintained, though the hours and length of the program could see some small reductions. Though no new funding cuts will be made for next fiscal year, state funding for the program has been decreased by $20 million from the $35 million it was at two years ago, reducing the number of youth jobs supported from 26,000 to 11,000.

Private foundations have continued to support some youth-employment programs, though. The Mott Foundation just awarded $800,000 to the Summer Youth Initiative in Flint, Mich., which helps underwrite summer jobs for teens. This is the fifth year the foundation, which also provides funding to Education Week, has provided this support.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Beyond School blog.