News Column

Massachusetts Youth Jobless Rate Soars

Dec 3, 2012

Marie Szaniszlo

The unemployment rate among young adults in the state has more than doubled over the past decade, leaving nearly one in seven young people out of work, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center.

"There is no more important economic development priority than making sure all of our people can contribute their full potential to our economic strength," Noah Berger, the center's president, said of the local data it released today to accompany a national report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. "This report makes clear that our nation is falling short of that mark."

Last year, 13.8 percent of Massachusetts young adults ages 16 to 24 -- compared to 6.7 percent in 2000 -- were actively looking for work but unable to find it, the center found.

The percentage hit a high of 16.1 percent in 2010 but dropped the following year, most likely because the overall unemployment rate also fell and because some young people may have given up looking for work since they are competing for minimum-wage jobs with older adults due to the recession, said Lewis Finfer, director of the Massachusetts Communities Action Network.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation's report also tracks the growing population of "disconnected youth," people ages 16 to 24 who are neither working nor in school. Since 2000, that number has increased by nearly 46 percent in Massachusetts to 134,000 and by 30 percent nationally to 6.5 million, leaving youth employment at its lowest level since World War II.

"This comes at a cost, not only to young people, but to society as a whole," Finfer said. "Young people who are out of school and out of work are more likely to fall into behavior that's unproductive or harmful to them or to other people. They're more likely to pay less taxes, to use more social services and to end up in the criminal justice system."

Shara Kellam, 16, of Mattapan searched for a job for more than two years before landing one two weeks ago as a youth organizer at the Youth Jobs Coalition. It pays only about $75 per week, but it's enough to help pay the bills at home.

"Having a single parent is hard," said Kellam, a junior at the Boston Arts Academy. "Having a job helps me build responsibility for myself and be independent."

Source: (c)2012 the Boston Herald. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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