The current unemployment crisis among young African-Americans can be traced back to government policies that were instituted when this generation was in elementary school, according to a report by JPMorgan Chase that details the impact of the federal government in 2000 ending its investment in the Summer Youth Employment and Training Program.
Since 2000, as summer youth employment jobs dried up, more and more young people entered adulthood with no work experience and little chance of securing permanent employment. This has put millions of young people across the country in a state of limbo, without a job and no longer in school, adrift.
This has only exacerbated the skills gap that employers complain about—the mismatch between employer needs and worker skills. When the federal government ended the Summer Youth Employment and Training Program, it led to an approximately 40 percent decline in summer youth employment, a problem that’s particularly acute among low-income and young people color.
In 2013, according to the JPMorgan report, low-income teenagers were 20 percentage points less likely to be employed than high-income teenagers. In addition, white male youths from high-income families were five times more likely to be employed than Black male youths from low-income families.
“Young people are facing an employment crisis,” Chauncy Lennon, JPMorgan Chase’s head of workforce initiatives, said in a statement. “Too many young people cannot find summer jobs and, as a result, they’re missing out on a critical opportunity to be personally and professionally successful in the future.”
So why hasn’t the private sector stepped in to make up for the jobs lost when the federal government bowed out? JP Morgan Chase suggests that companies do exactly that, incorporating job training and skills development, particularly those in demand by employers.
“One thing we know is an issue is when you have young people who are out of school for long periods of time when there’s no adult supervision … they’re kind of on their own,” Slay says. “We know what a job does for a child is not only puts money in their pocket, but also builds self-esteem. It helps teach them basic life skills and self-discipline. It keeps them off the street and hopefully out of trouble and really provides a way of setting an example for other young people.”