For many young African-Americans who are looking for jobs, the Obama administration says it’s committed to offering hope this summer in the form of a paycheck.
“In January, we called on the private and public sectors to help us address record unemployment among America’s youth,” President Barack Obama said in a statement Wednesday. “Today, we are proud to announce that cities, federal agencies, non-profits, and companies from across the country have come together to provide hundreds of thousands of summer jobs and employment opportunities for our young people.”
Last summer, the unemployment rate among youth ages 16-24 — many of them black — set a near record high, and only 21 out of 100 low-income teens had a job. Starting in June, the administration hopes to reverse that trend by creating 300,000 employment opportunities for low-income young adults, which includes 90,000 paid jobs and thousands of internships.
The administration says it has secured additional commitments from 95 companies and non-profits, three cities, two federal agencies and the White House to provide new summer jobs for disadvantaged youth. In addition, the administration will also launch a new online search tool to help connect young people to jobs, internships and other employment opportunities this summer and year-round.
“There’s no replacement for the dignity that comes with earning your first paycheck, and whether young people are looking for a job at the retail store around the corner-or at a national park states away-they now have one place to start their search,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.
Obama’s jobs plan should be embraced by some of the president’s critics — like talk show host Tavis Smiley and Princeton University professor Cornel West — who have chastised Obama for not doing enough to create jobs in urban areas, and devastated black communities in particular.
The administration’s summer jobs announcement also comes as the Economic Policy Institute released a report this week that shows women and African-Americans are hit hardest by job losses in government.
According to the Economic Policy Institute:
• Historically, the state and local public sectors have provided more equitable opportunities for women and people of color. As a result, women and African-Americans constitute a disproportionately large share of the state and local public-sector workforce.
• Overall, the wage gap across genders is similar in the state and local public sectors and in the private sector. However, it is smaller for highly educated women employed in state and local government.
• State and local public-sector workers of color face smaller wage disparities across racial lines, and at some levels of education actually enjoy a wage premium over similarly educated white workers.
• The disproportionate share of women and African-Americans working in state and local government has translated into higher rates of job loss for both groups in these sectors. Between 2007 (before the recession) and 2011, state and local governments shed about 765,000 jobs. Women and African-Americans comprised about 70 percent and 20 percent, respectively, of those losses.
“The federal government needs to step up its funding for infrastructure and school-modernization projects and target job-creation programs in hard-hit communities,” said Mary Gable, co-author of the report. “Such programs would go a long way in assisting women and African-Americans.”
Meanwhile, the three cities that have joined the administration’s summer jobs initiative are Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco.
In Philadelphia, Mayor Michael A. Nutter is challenging Philadelphia residents and the business community to provide 7,500 youth summer jobs in 2012. Nutter is also asking citizens to donate personal contributions — as small as $5 – to help reach the summer jobs goal. In Chicago, the city officials say they are committed to providing 973 new summer jobs with nearly half of these opportunities directed specifically towards students at risk of academic failure. And in San Francisco, the city is committed to offering 5,000 jobs and internships for youth ages 14–24.
Obama proposed $1.5 billion for summer jobs and year-round employment for low-income youth ages 16-24 in the American Jobs Act. But when Congress failed to act, officials said, the federal government and private sector came together in January to commit to creating jobs for low-income youth this summer.
“The Summer Jobs Bank and the growing list of organizations stepping up to answer the President’s challenge are important to maintaining our commitment to the next generation of the American workforce,” Solis said.