Supply of Summer Youth Jobs Falling Short of Demand

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WASHINGTON--Hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged teenagers are searching for employment this summer, but the public and private sectors will not be able to meet the demand, according to government and industry officials.

The defeat of President Clinton's proposal to spend $1 billion for summer jobs means that cities and counties will be unable to employ every disadvantaged youth who wants a job, officials say.

And, they note, businesses, which are still struggling in a sluggish economy, will be unable to pick up the slack.

The result will be yet another blow to an already-beleaguered summer-employment system, which already is reeling from charges of ineffectiveness, according to Katie Landini, the assistant director for employment and training for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

"The system's going to be punished, rather than having Congress look at itself and say, 'It's our fault.''' she said. "I'm just concerned it's really going to hurt the psyche of the system.''

Foes of the President's overall economic-stimulus plan argued that it contained projects of dubious merit and that it should not have been financed by adding to the federal debt.

According to John Stinson, an economist with the Labor Department's bureau of labor statistics, the summer-employment outlook for the 23.1 million people aged 16 to 24 is slightly better than it was last year, when 19.7 million persons in that age group were employed.

Waiting Lists in Cities

President Clinton's $1 billion request for summer youth employment, part of his original economic-stimulus bill, would have provided about 700,000 summer jobs, roughly doubling the number of jobs created in 1992.

His scaled-back package, approved by the House last month, would provide $235 million for summer youth jobs. That amount would be added to the $680 million already in the fiscal 1993 budget if the Senate concurs. An additional $167 million was carried over from fiscal 1992.

But while that measure would add 189,000 jobs to the 684,000 already expected to be created, it would leave thousands of young people on waiting lists in cities and counties throughout the country, according to Ms. Landini.

"A lot of places are really stretched,'' she said. "Local governments aren't that rich. They can't pick up all of the slack.''

In Houston, she noted, 12,000 young people are eligible for jobs, but 8,500 will be on a waiting list; in Toledo, Ohio, 700 young people will be placed while 3,000 remain a waiting list; and in Jacksonville, Fla., 650 will get jobs and 2,600 will be on a waiting list.

"These cities spent a lot of time and a lot of effort for nothing,'' Ms. Landini said. "They're really going to be jaded.''

Some cities, however, have pledged to fill the summer jobs vacuum, whatever the outcome of the federal legislation.

In Washington, for example, Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly has promised to find a job for every young person who wants one, said J.D. Brown, the associate director of Washington's office of youth employment services.

And in Pittsburgh, the city has kicked in $1 million in Community Development Block Grant funds to the $1.7 million already available in Job Training Partnership Act money, said Anne McCafferty, the manager of the Pittsburgh Partnership, the city agency that runs the summer-jobs program.

Private-Sector Prospects Dim

In the private sector, meanwhile, the continued slow growth of the economy means that businesses are unlikely to jump in and provide enough jobs to keep low-income youths occupied this summer, say business representatives.

"In the private sector, this will not be a real strong summer,'' said Bob Knight, the president of the National Association of Private Industry Councils.

He said it is unclear whether the private sector will be able to meet the Clinton Administration's challenge to create 300,000 jobs for at-risk young people this summer, on top of the one million jobs for youths the private sector traditionally provides. At times, Administration officials have asked the private sector to create as many as one million additional jobs for disadvantaged youngsters.

"My guess is, by and large, hiring is an economic decision and not a social one, so I don't think there will be one million private-sector jobs created,'' Mr. Knight said. "Now, 300,000 is another question.''

The National Alliance of Business is coordinating the private sector's attempt to meet the 300,000-jobs goal.

H. Keith Poston, a spokesman for the alliance, said the private sector is "over halfway'' to 300,000, and added that "we're pretty sure'' the goal will be attained.

"We're still taking pledges in from companies. It's going better than expected,'' Mr. Poston said. "Our phones are still ringing with the more publicity we get.''

Typically, said Mr. Poston, the private sector does not target jobs for low-income youths, but it is making a special effort to do so at the President's request.

Outreach Effort

The degree of the alliance's outreach effort is difficult to gauge.

The defeat of the stimulus package took some of the wind out of the sails of the private-sector campaign, according to Nelson Smith, the vice president for education and youth employment for the New York City Partnership. The partnership coordinates a campaign to enlist the private sector in summer job creation for young people.

"I think people's minds have wandered,'' Mr. Smith said. "I don't think there's a sense of a national campaign going on.''

Vol. 12, Issue 37

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