NEW YORK—The May job report reveals high youth unemployment, which experts say is a national problem that needs more attention.
While unemployment rose nationally just a bit, to 7.6 percent, unemployment for younger workers, ages 18 to 29 remains problematically high at 11.6 percent.
To makes matters worse that percentage does not represent the total number youth out of work.
According to millennial advocacy group Generation Opportunity, around 5 percent of youth have left the job market and are no longer actively looking for a job. Thus the number of unemployed young people is closer to 16 percent.
President of Generation Opportunity Evan Feinberg said youth unemployment is a problem that needs immediate attention. Not working in your 20s can suppress wages for years to come, said Feinberg, citing a study from the University of Bristol.
Feinberg said young people need meaningful, career-oriented jobs and they are not finding them.
One Rutgers study found 35 percent of recent college graduates were neither continuing their schooling nor working full time. A Measure of America study of youth 16 to 24 found that as many as one in seven, or 5.8 million young people are “disconnected” from society, meaning they are not in school and not working.
In New York, one in five African-American and Latino youth is disconnected, according to the above study, which was published in September 2012. These young men and women are disengaged from experiences of learning and growing that bring confidence and purpose. They are not using their youth to lay a foundation for future employment.
“We have to think critically as a city, what this means for our future as a city,” said Brooke Richie-Babbage, director of the Resilience Advocacy Project, which works to strengthen poor youth so they can rise out of poverty.
“Five years down the line when they are 26 and employers expect them to have six to seven years of work experience and they don’t, they are even further behind,” said¬ Richie-Babbage, who spoke June 5 at a rally on the steps of City Hall to push for more funding for youth employment programs.
New York state and city operate work experience programs to help youth, particularly poorer youth who need a boost to step out of poverty.
New York’s Department of Youth and Community Development’s (DYCD) runs a Summer Youth Employment Program, a Young Adult Internship Program, an Out-of-School Youth and an In School Youth Program. Two of the programs are directed at unemployed youth not attending school.
These programs provided approximately 30,000 young people with seven weeks of summer work.
The city has also built several new career and technical education high schools to help prepare students for jobs.
However, these job programs don’t come close to meeting the need, according to a new report from community group FUREEous Youth and the Urban Justice Center.
Each of the last three years the summer employment program was unable to place 100,000 young people who applied for positions. Some programs served as few as 1,000 or less.
The Measure of America study found almost 350,000 disconnected youth live in the New York metro area.
FUREEous Youth wants to see existing job training programs offer more slots to these youth and wants better advertising for the programs so more know of the opportunity.
The job report also calls for career advisers and work study programs to be set up in high schools to help guide students for the transition into the workforce.
Struggling youth with blank résumés benefit most from this opportunity for work experience. Even a little work experience can be a boost that leads to a job.
Eric Valentin Jr., who spent three summers working through New York City’s Summer Youth Employment Program, is currently working in daycare. Valentin said the experience taught him to know how to interact with parents and it helped him land a job after high school.
Valentin thinks the employment programs are valuable. “Young people have to take the initiative and these programs help them take that initiative,” he said.
The experience helps young people understand the realities of a job, according to Valentin. “There are times when you have bad days, times when you have good days, so these programs show you how to deal with them.”