Facing what experts predict will be the toughest youth job market in 40 years, a summer youth jobs campaign was launched on Wednesday in western Massachusetts.
A workforce development agency announced a goal of securing 1,000 jobs this summer for youth in Hampden County, a number only slightly higher than the 945 jobs created for young people last year.
William Ward, head of the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County said a coalition of workforce development and employment specialists, government officials, employers and trade groups have joined the summer youth employment initiative.
A recent study by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University presents a grim outlook for youthful job seekers. It found the teenage employment rate in Massachusetts is the lowest it has been since World War Two. Just 27 percent of people ages 16 to 19 were employed last year, down from 54 percent in 1999.
Ward says there has been a large structural change in the labor market as a result of upheaval in the global economy.
Government funding for summer jobs has been cut. The proposed state budget approved by the Massachusetts House cuts funding for the YouthWorks program in half. Governor Deval Patrick has asked for a supplemental budget to level fund the program at $10 million.
The summer youth employment campaign was endorsed at Wednesday’s kick off by Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse. They urged local business owners to find a spot for a young person, or donate money to subsidize an employment opportunity.
Kathryn Kirby, the youth employment manager for the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, said about 100 summer job sites have been promised so far.
David Gadaire, the executive director of Career Point in Holyoke, said the employment center is already taking applications from young people looking for summer work.
The launch of the summer jobs campaign included testimonials from people who have hired youths in the past and from college students who spoke about the value of working during the summer.