Supply of jobs for teens dwindles

The city’s participation in the county’s Summer Youth Employment Program faces the budget ax at a ti

The city’s participation in the county’s Summer Youth Employment Program faces the budget ax at a time when New York’s unemployment rate for teens ranks 13th in the nation.

The program places low-income teenagers in jobs at local nonprofit groups and businesses.

Mayor Brian Stratton told the City Council Monday that $75,000 could be saved by not participating in the jobs program, an option that was included among closing the city pools and other cost-saving efforts.

For Bernie McEvoy, president of the board for Vale Cemetery, the cut would pre-empt his efforts to participate in the program this year after a nearly four-year hiatus.

McEvoy hopes to receive a few workers to help his small staff with landscape work for the 100 acres of grass in the cemetery. Work includes picking up several fallen branches and litter clumped around entrances.

He also hopes to resod certain areas and plant flowers.

“We’re going to try and participate. It’s unfortunate if the city has to pull out,” McEvoy said.

Last summer, the county said they had more teenagers requesting work than jobs to fill. By June, Schenectady County had 700 applications for 500 jobs and a full waiting list.

Chuck Steiner, president and CEO of the Chamber of Schenectady County, which has participated in the program for several years, said gauging the impact was premature but he applauded the mayor for presenting the budget problems early and indicating what was at stake.

“We think it’s an excellent program to get youth involved,” he said.

If the city pulls out of its participation, the affected teens won’t have the state’s program for summer youth employment to fall back on, either.

Earlier this week, Gov. David Paterson said budget cuts include pulling the state’s $19 million in funding for its summer youth jobs program that gave employment to 52,000 teens last year. The state was flooded with applications for the program, with more than 130,000 teens vying for a summer job.

Teenagers looking for a way into the work force via restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores and other retail establishments will face more competition than ever this year. The poor economy and businesses feeling the squeeze from last year’s increase in the federal minimum wage may push employers to be more conservative with hiring plans, according to Michael Saltsman, research fellow at the Employment Policies Institute, a nonprofit organization.

Unemployment in Schenectady stood between 8.9 percent and 9.5 percent from May to June 2009. For that same period, the Capital Region’s range was 6.7 percent to 7.3 percent.

But for teens, the unemployment rate was higher year-round.

A preliminary analysis by EPI shows that the teen unemployment rate in New York averaged 26.6 percent over last year, following states like California, Nevada and Oregon, all of which had teen unemployment rates of more than 30 percent.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will release official results next month, Saltsman said.

“Well-meaning legislators raised the wage for low-income Americans but made it more expensive for employers to hire workers who are younger or who have less experience,” Saltsman said.

Categories: Business

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