In May the national unemployment rate for people aged 16 to 19 was a near record-high 26.4 percent. Some parts of the teenage population are faring especially poorly. Unemployment among teenage Latino males was 27.1 percent; black females posted a 40 percent rate of unemployment. Many observers have called the current job market the worst ever for teens.
One of the government programs that has helped connect city teens to the world of work is the Summer Youth Employment Program, which in New York City last year provided seven weeks of minimum wage work to 52,000 people aged 14 to 24 at 8,700 worksites around the city.
In his proposed fiscal 2011 budget, Gov. David Paterson eliminated funding for SYEP, citing “a rising public assistance caseload” and the need to use federal welfare funds, which had been directed to SYEP, to pay benefits instead. This cut, coupled with dwindling federal stimulus money, meant that only 25,000 slots were projected in May.
The current state budget—the product of a series of budget extension bills in a process that is still ongoing in Albany—restores some of that funding, so now the city (which provides the bulk of the funding) has 34,000 slots to fill—still 20,000 fewer than last year.
Reporters Jordan Shakeshaft and Michael Cohen met up this spring with several New York teens who were hoping to count on SYEP this year, as part of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s ground-level look at how the Obama stimulus program has worked in New York City. Dan Tran, 17, talked about his experience last summer as a docent at the Museum of American Finance. Two-time SYEP participant Carissa Ho, 19, was reapplying to the program this summer at the Chinese-American Planning Council. Staten Island teen Justice Coleman, 15, was awaiting news from SYEP on the status of his application.
Dan Tran, 17
Carissa Ho, 19
Justice Coleman, 15