By Brian Ballou | The Boston Globe | February 21, 2013
More than 1,000 high school students from across Massachusetts marched from Faneuil Hall to the State House Thursday, calling for increased funding for youth jobs and asking that more companies create summer positions for teens.
“This is important for me to be here, begging these legislators for more jobs, because we are the future,” said Sheraine Blake, 18, a senior at the Boston Community Leadership Academy, as she stood on the State House steps. “And to save kids from being out on the street and doing things they shouldn’t be doing, why not open up more jobs for us?”
“It will cut down on drugs and all the violence,” she added.
The students, who hailed from at least a dozen cities and towns, chanted “We want jobs” as they wound through downtown on their way to the State House. Once there, they were briefed on how to approach elected officials about their concerns. State Representative Elizabeth A. “Liz” Malia, a Democrat who represents Jamaica Plain, met with the students, as did several other state legislators.
The annual demonstration, organized by the Boston-based Youth Jobs Coalition, began in the summer of 2009, when the Legislature proposed cutting 2010 state funding for youth jobs by 50 percent, because of a lack of federal money.
About 700 youths showed up that year to protest the cut to $4 million, and the Legislature eventually found $4 million in an unused emergency fund to restore total spending — used for the creation of municipal jobs for teens — to $8 million. Spending remained at $8 million in 2011 and last year rose to $9 million, according to officials with the Boston-based Youth Jobs Coalition.
Even with that funding, the coalition says employment of high-school age youth has fallen dramatically, citing a 2012 report by Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies that put teen employment at a record low of 27 percent, compared with 54 percent in 1999.
A second component of the youth jobs program, subsidies from the state to private companies to hire and train youth, has been slashed, from $7 million to $2.8 million, said Lew Finfer, an adult leader of the Youth Jobs Coalition.
“That has really hurt the effort,” he said.
Finfer said the coalition is seeking summer jobs that pay about $2,500 for up to seven weeks. He said that in Boston, there are 45 companies that have workforces with more than 500 employees that are not hiring young people, and 357 companies that have more than 100 employees that are not hiring teens.
“We are really pushing on those companies to consider creating jobs for youths,” he said.
To pay for state subsidies for those jobs, Finfer said students are urging legislators to accept Governor Deval Patrick’s $1.9 billion tax hike proposal, and the ‘Act to invest in our Communities,’ which was cosponsored by 50 legislators. That act proposes increased income tax and capital gains tax on higher-income residents.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino spoke inside Faneuil Hall before the youth march Thursday, saying that every year of his administration, creating jobs for youth has been at the top of his to-do list.
“It’s a no brainer . . . when you put young people to work, it creates opportunities for you, it’s a learning process, to build up new relationships,” Menino said. “When January starts, my number one priority is getting summer jobs for our young people.”
By Marian Wright Edelman and Andrew Sum
When I was a young man I observed that nine out of ten things I did were failures. I didn’t want to be a failure, so I did ten times more work.
– George Bernard Shaw
Most young men and women today want to work hard, but for those under 25 years old, work has often been impossible to find. Young people ages 16 to 24 are among the greatest casualties of our economic downfall. Even college graduates have had an extremely tough time finding a job, any job; forget about full-time meaningful work in their area of study.
These teens and young adults have been forgotten in the fierce public debates about how best to create jobs for the huge numbers of the unemployed. The country shed 7.9 million jobs during the Great Recession between 2007 and 2009, and during the slow recovery desperate laid-off older workers took any jobs they could get, often jobs requiring fewer skills for lower pay. Entry level jobs for high school and college graduates disappeared. Other young people and teens got pushed out of the labor market completely. They have faced sharp rises in unemployment and underemployment, and the largest declines in employment rates. Teenagers have been hardest hit.
During the economic boom times in 2000, slightly more than 45 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds were employed. By 2010, only 26 percent were employed, a new post-World War II low. Most disturbing, while overall employment throughout the country has been rising since early 2010, the nation’s teens have not seen any increase in their employment opportunities. We ignore this crisis at our peril.
Research shows teen employment helps achieve many positive outcomes for youths, their families, and the rest of society. Teens who work in high school, especially those from low-income and lower middle-income families, are less likely to drop out of high school, become teen parents, or engage in criminal behavior. For poor families, teen salaries often help put food on the table and keep the lights on.
The young Americans who will be our future workforce also aren’t learning the critical soft skills they will need to succeed — good attendance, proper work behavior, customer service, teamwork, and technical job skills. Learning the value of hard work and the deep satisfaction that comes from a job well done will stay with teens for their lifetime. Work experience also makes it easier to get a job later on. Early work experience is a win-win-win proposition for teens, their families, and for the country.
Certainly during this presidential election year, all the candidates should be talking about our teen employment crisis. Newt Gingrich addressed it by blaming Black Americans for accepting food stamps rather than demanding jobs (many food stamp recipients work), and then blaming poor children for lacking a strong work ethic and proposing giving them jobs as janitors in their schools. Mr. Gingrich turned it into a divisive conversation about race rather than jump-starting a national conversation about the millions of missing jobs for teens and young adults.
Mr. Gingrich’s home state of Georgia makes a dramatic case for urgent interventions for teen workers. Back in 2000, the average annual teen employment rate in Georgia was identical to the national rate. By 2010 it had dropped from 46 percent to 19 percent, eight percentage points below the national average, and tied with California and Mississippi for the lowest teen employment rate in the country.
In Georgia, teen unemployment was an equal opportunity offender. All gender, race, ethnic, and family income groups experienced steep declines in teen employment rates during that ten year period, but the state’s low- and lower middle-income youths were the least likely to be employed in 2010. Only 16 percent of teens in families with incomes below $40,000 worked while 27 percent of teenagers in middle- to upper middle-income families worked. For Black youths it was even worse; only 12 percent in low-income families worked.
If we continue to ignore these dire facts, not only do we fail our children, we put the future economic security of America at risk. It is past time for those who would like to lead our nation to greater economic health over the next four years to tell us how they plan to get our young people back to work. They need summer and year-round jobs, public and private sector jobs, and paid work experiences with educational and training opportunities to prepare them for the future. Most young people want to work and are willing to work. Right now there is no work.
MassINC is proud to present “Recapturing the American Dream: Meeting the Challenges of the Bay State’s Lost Decade.” This joint project with the Center for Labor Market Studies was made possible by the generous support of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and Partners Health Care. More so than any previous report, this research sheds light on the economic well-being of workers at a moment when public attention is hyper-focused on policymaking to rekindle the promise of the American Dream for those struggling to join the middle class and remain in its ranks.
The data presented in this report show that the last decade was extremely hard for Bay State residents. For the first time since World War II, the Commonwealth ended the decade with fewer jobs and families went without a raise. The report describes how this sour economy created four key hurdles that Massachusetts must now overcome.
MassINC’s mission is to support the vitality of the state’s middle class by providing solid, objective research to inform public policy. This is the third time since our founding that we have paused to look carefully at how residents are faring in their pursuit of the American Dream. While the news is discouraging, we hope that these data encourage productive dialogue around the future of our commonwealth.
As searches dragged on, many just stopped looking. Now they aren’t even counted among the jobless.
By Katie Johnston | Boston Globe Staff | February 8, 2012
Millions of Americans have vanished from the US labor force in the past three years, many of them so discouraged by long, fruitless job searches that they have given up looking for work, convinced that no employer wants them, according to a new study.
The Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University found that there were 5.4 million fewer people in the workforce last year than projected by the Labor Department in 2008 – many the “hidden unemployed’’ who, no longer searching for work, are not counted in the official jobless rate. In Massachusetts, their numbers have more than doubled over the past decade to about 120,000.
Among the missing are teenagers who have stopped looking for mall jobs that are now going to college graduates, and laid-off 60-year-olds who have reluctantly retired as employers turned to younger, cheaper talent. Some are at home, supported by spouses. Others are in college or training programs, hoping to gain marketable skills. A few have ended up homeless.
Despite the steady decline in unemployment recently, the study is a reminder of how far the economy has to go. The Labor Department reported Friday that the official unemployment rate slipped to 8.3 percent in January, but when labor force dropouts and the underemployed – those working part time because they can’t find full-time jobs – are included, the rate doubles to about 17 percent.
Losing the productivity of more than 5 million people over the past three years means a slower recovery, with fewer people contributing to the nation’s economic output, buying products, and paying taxes, said Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies. These missing workers are more likely to become poor, rely on government assistance, and develop mental health issues.
And when hiring picks up, many of these long-term unemployed will have lost so many skills and so much work experience that they won’t easily reenter the labor market. “Their difficulties will end up being paid in part by us,’’ Sum said.
Barbara Bobea, laid off from a human resources job two years ago, spends her afternoons trying to get a bed at the Pine Street Inn homeless shelter. After her jobless benefits ran out last summer, she had no other choice.
Bobea, 43, has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Alaska in Anchorage. But with no money to buy minutes for her cellphone, restrictions on when she can shower and iron at the shelter, and no place to hang her crumpled interview clothes, it became difficult for her to pursue the human resources and bookkeeping jobs that fit her credentials.
She lowered her sights and applied at McDonald’s, but never heard back. In November, she stopped trying.
Recently, Bobea worked with a career counselor to revamp her resume, but she’s so discouraged she’s afraid to use it. “What else will I do if that resume doesn’t work?’’ she said.
Bobea is among the victims of a severe economic downturn that at its worst left about one in five Americans unemployed, underemployed, or so demoralized that they gave up looking for work. Today, nearly three years after the recovery began, the situation has improved only marginally.
“The true labor market problem that we face is a lot bigger than what the official unemployment numbers tell us,’’ said Sum. “A lot of these hidden unemployed are really going to have a hard time making it back because for a key part of their working life, they’re absent.’’
In 2008, before the financial crisis, the Labor Department projected the labor force would increase to nearly 159 million people by 2011, but instead it dropped to less than 154 million, slightly below the 2008 level. Several factors have contributed to this stagnation, including workers who may have entered the labor force in better times, but stayed on the sidelines in recent years, and immigrants who left or never came to the United States as opportunities faded.
But the main contributor, the study says, is the growth in the number of workers who gave up looking and dropped out of the labor force. Since 2008, this hidden unemployment has increased by about 30 percent, or 1.5 million workers.
The disappearance of jobs during the economic downturn has disproportionately affected the low income, the less educated, and the young, Sum said, noting that almost half of the 5.4 million missing workers are under the age of 35.
Jackson Julien, 19, a student at Boston Adult Technical Academy, an alternative public high school, started applying for jobs at video game and computer stores last summer, but gave up after zero interviews. “At first, you’re looking for things that are fun,’’ he said. “Then you just get demoralized and you start looking for anything. And then you get demoralized even more and you just give up.’’
Julien, who is staying with a friend, doesn’t need a job to buy new clothes; he needs one to survive. He eats breakfast and lunch at school for free, but at night he subsists mostly on ramen noodles and online video games. “If I’m hungry and I just play games, the hunger goes away,’’ he said.
Many teens need money to pay for food, utilities, and rent, said Neil Sullivan, executive of the Boston Private Industry Council, which helps young people find jobs. When they can’t bring home a paycheck, it doesn’t just hurt their ability to pay the bills, it makes it harder for them to land employment as adults because they aren’t developing on-the-job skills.
“We have generations that are coming through school into the workforce with little to no previous workforce experience,’’ he said.
For many older workers, experience is not enough. They have left the labor force to update skills in colleges and training programs in the hopes of improving their prospects.
Pedro Lopez, 55, was among them. After losing his job delivering oil in March 2008, he spent two years looking for another truck driving job before giving up and enrolling in a welding school in Jacksonville, Fla.
He was missing from the labor force for eight months between 2010 and 2011 while completing the 30-week program. He reentered the labor force last summer, landing a temporary job as a structural welder, but he has been out of work again since September.
Lopez, of Lawrence, and his family are getting by with his $235 weekly unemployment check and the money his wife’s in-home day care brings in, but he owes $9,000 in student loans and isn’t seeing many openings for new welders. “They are looking for people with four or five years of experience,’’ he said.
Learning new skills is generally considered useful, said Sum, but when the market demand isn’t there, time away from the job search can be detrimental.
“There’s no guarantee that you’re automatically going to do better just because you went to school,’’ Sum said. “The reason why they’re there is because no one will give them a job.’’
‘If they don’t have a job by now, they’re kind of out of luck’: Summer jobs sparse for teens this year
This summer might be another bummer for high school and college students looking for seasonal employment.
Already local park districts that traditionally hire teens and college students during the summer months have completed their hiring. Collinsville Area Recreation District spokeswoman Elizabeth Davis said hiring began at beginning of the year and wrapped up earlier this spring.
“We’re done hiring,” Davis said. “A lot of our hiring started in January.”
Jordan Woods is happy to have landed one of those jobs at the park district’s water park, Splash City. The 20-year-old was doing some landscaping last week around the parking lot in preparing the water park’s opening May 28. He said he was looking for summer work for three months before he found his job.
“A couple of my friends have not had a job for a couple years,” Woods said. “A lot of people I know are looking for a job.”
Zak Woodward is back for his fifth season at the water park and also works in construction when the work is available. He said it is not easy to find a summer job.
“All I’ve really done is work here,” Woodward said. “I’ve got construction jobs lined up, but it’s just whenever I get it or when they need help.”
“One of my friends can’t get a job at all. If they’ve got a job, it’s because they had it already.”
Aquatics supervisor Stephanie Whittington said 10 more lifeguards were hired this year than last year, but otherwise staffing remains the same.
“We set deadlines,” Whittington said. “We had a lot of referrals from some of our prior lifeguards and other staff members. By the deadline, we hired all of our employees by the end of February.”
In O’Fallon, the O’Fallon Parks and Recreation Department is still looking for a few more lifeguards, but most of its summer hiring is completed. Director Mary Jeanne Hutchison said that out of 261 applicants, 80 have been hired for the season.
“We are basically done hiring,” Hutchison said. “It had started several months ago. We started posting in January to get our rehires completed in March and then in early April started interviewing for any openings.”
This year stands to be one of the worst, especially for those 16- to 19-year-olds still looking for summer employment. According to a new report by Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies in Boston, only one in four U.S. teens will find work this summer. The forecast predicts that the teen employment rate during the summer months will only reach 27 percent –the lowest ever and second-lowest summer employment rate for teens since World War II.
“That’s how much this has fallen,” said center director Andrew Sum. “It’s unbelievable.”
He also said the nation’s teen employment rate during the past decade has been whittled down from 45 percent in 2000 to 25.6 percent in 2010.
“We just didn’t create any jobs during the last decade,” he said. “None.”
He and fellow researchers point to the emergence of workers 55 and older who, over the past decade, have pursued more jobs that had traditionally been held by teens. He also said illegal immigrants have pushed more teens out of the job market.
In Illinois, teen unemployment has been on the rise over recent summers. Figures from the Illinois Department of Employment Security in Chicago reveal that the teen jobless rate was 16.7 percent in 2007. Last summer, teen unemployment across the state climbed to 27.5 percent.
“It’s been building in every age group,” said department spokesman Greg Rivara. “The unemployment rates are unacceptably high everywhere.”
“Given the trends, the difficult part of this is we’ve never been here before,” Rivara said. “We have had economic downturns and had severe recession, but never had a recession that has been this deep or this long. And the conventional wisdom that had been used previously is challenged when we look forward.”
Hutchison said the O’Fallon park district has witnessed about 90 fewer applicants than a year ago, when about 350 applied for work. There are only a very small number of jobs that are still open for this summer.
“If they don’t have a job by now, they’re kind of out of luck,” Hutchison said.