Job Front: Young people still struggle to find work

Teens and young adults traditionally have struggled much more to find work than their older counterparts. But a new Brookings Institution report shows the road to employment for young job seekers nationwide and here in Sacramento during the 2000s has been especially rocky.

The report, “The Plummeting Labor Market Fortunes of Teens and Young Adults,” released Friday, showed teen employment in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas sank sharply between 2000 and 2011, while fewer young adults found work during the same span.

“On a number of measures, teens and young adults fared poorly, and sometimes disastrously,” said Brookings analysts who looked at unemployment, employment rates and other factors such as underemployment and year-round joblessness.

Brookings fellow and report co-author Martha Ross said the report shows that schools and employers must work more closely to better prepare young people for the work world.

“There’s a very decentralized relationship between educational institutions and the labor market – we need to bring them closer together. ...We need a broader definition of college success,” Ross said. “The status quo is not working for a lot of people.”

“One of the recommendations is that schools can help be a key broker for young people,” Ross added, saying vocational and job-experience programs “are a huge part of the solution” to youth unemployment and preparing youth for post-secondary education.

The Brookings report shows how far young people’s employment prospects had fallen. More than four in 10 teens nationally were employed in 2000, according to the report. By 2011, that had slipped to two in 10.

Young adults 20 to 24 also struggled. Sixty percent of adults ages 20 to 24 were employed in 2011, according to the Brookings report, compared to 72 percent in 2000.

Teens and young adults in the Sacramento region faced similar struggles, made worse by the Great Recession. Four in 10 area teens were working in 2000, but just 21 percent were employed in 2012. Two-thirds of those 20 to 24 were employed in 2000. That number dropped to about 55 percent in 2012.

“Many regions of California were hard hit,” Ross said. “Young people are really vulnerable to those shocks in the labor market even if they’re not directly affected.”

Even as the Sacramento area emerges from recession, teens and young people continue to be shut out of many job opportunities, said Terri Carpenter, spokeswoman at Sacramento Employment and Training Agency, or SETA.

“There is more hiring available because of the economy turnaround, but there’s still a disconnect between work readiness and employment,” Carpenter said. “We need more employer commitment to hiring young people, but there’s still a competitive job market. We’re still working our way back from the downturn.”

But Carpenter said California educators, employers and lawmakers are beginning to work together to better prepare young people for 21st-century careers.

Carpenter pointed to Career Pathways, the new state education initiative linking businesses, K-12 schools and community colleges to help students plot their career paths.

“We’re aware of the problem, decision makers are aware of it, parents definitely feel it,” Carpenter said. “This is the future workforce.”

Find the report at www.brookings.edu.

Job Fair in Folsom

Dozens of local employers will meet with job seekers at a free job fair Friday in Folsom.

The Tri-County Job Fair is 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Folsom Community Center, 52 Natoma St.

Targeted to job seekers in Placer, El Dorado and Sacramento counties, more than 60 employers are slated to attend the career event, including UC Davis Health System, VSP Global, El Dorado County and California Highway Patrol.

The job fair also features breakout sessions and a resume review clinic.

For more information, visit www.tricountyjobfair.org.

Contact us

Let us hear from you. Is your company hiring? Is your organization hosting a career fair? Starting a networking group? Contact Job Front at dvsmith@sacbee.com.