Report says youth nationwide struggle to find employment and many have stopped trying

With the continuing nationwide economic slump, youth are not only struggling to find jobs, but many may have stopped trying altogether, according to federal data released Wednesday.

A mere 59.5 percent of youth between 16 and 24 were working or actively looking for work in July, marking the lowest rate on record — since 1948 — according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, Delfina Geiken, Berkeley’s employment programs administrator, said the city’s youth employment initiative, YouthWorks, did not see a decrease in applicants this summer, receiving an usual number of applications — nearly 1,000. Funded by the city, YouthWorks is a program that finds jobs for people between the ages of 14 and 25.

Typically, the youth labor force, which includes those with jobs or seeking jobs, skyrockets between April and July each year, as students finish the school year and search for work. This year, the labor force jumped by 11.8 percent between those months, with the youth labor force growing by 2.4 million.

While there is no data about youth employment rates in Berkeley, the national youth employment rate in July was 48.5 percent, also the lowest rate on record, according to the data.

“Youth are competing with adults for jobs that typically youth would expect to get,” she said. “I’m not surprised that the data shows that at all.”

Geiken added that in the past few years, she has seen that many of the city’s youth looking for jobs are doing so to support their families rather than to earn cash for their own use. She also said that while the program tries to target youth from South and West Berkeley, historically poorer areas, YouthWorks is willing to find jobs for anyone who applies. The city’s overall unemployment rate was 10.5 percent in July, according to an analysis by the California Employment Development Department.

“In our mind, all youth are at risk regardless of their income level,” Geiken said.

The situation in California is already worse than in the rest of the country, since the state’s July unemployment rate — 12 percent — was higher than the national rate that month, 9.1 percent. Since at least 2002, the state unemployment rate has been consistently higher than the national rate, according to the state’s analysis.

In a press conference Thursday morning, Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled a three-part strategy, called California Jobs First plan, aimed at lowering the state’s unemployment rate. The plan, which will require a two-thirds vote from the state legislature for approval, would provide a tax credit for businesses that hire more employees and also remove sales tax on manufacturing equipment for startup companies during their first three years of business.

“Boosting job growth in California is a top priority, and this proposal is a critical step in making sure the state does everything it can to support local job creation,” Brown said at the conference.

Although Brown did not say specifically how many jobs he estimates the plan will create, he seemed confident that it would help lower the state’s unemployment rate — the second highest in the nation last month.

“We know the future depends on growing our way out of this economic morass,” Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, said at the conference.


Soumya Karlamangla is the assistant city news editor.