Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Federally funded summer jobs are scarce across Southern California

The economy is on the upswing, but the number of summer jobs for young people in the Los Angeles area has declined.
The economy is on the upswing, but the number of summer jobs for young people in the Los Angeles area has declined. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

It's not a great summer to look for a job if you're a kid in Southern California.

Most money for youth jobs programs at places like the L.A. Conservation Corp, Urban League and parks departments come from the federal government. But a lot of that funding has dried up over the past few years.

"Back in the 90's, we had tremendous ongoing federal resources for summer youth employment,” said L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President of Education and Workforce Development David Rattray. “That’s been eliminated."

He blames political pressure to reduce the federal deficit. Young people lack the lobbying power of senior citizens or the military, Rattray said.

“They have strong constituencies advocating for them,” he said.

The federal government increased funding for summer jobs programs after the Great Recession hit. But those subsidies under the American Recovery Act have ended. Add a stubbornly high unemployment rate and you end up with a tough summer for young people looking for work.

"Summer jobs are a big, big challenge," said L.A. Deputy Mayor Larry Frank.

The city and county of Los Angeles have money for about 6,000 jobs this summer – down from a high of 17,000, he said.

“It's harder to get a summer job if you're a kid now a days than ever,” said Frank, who has been chosen as the next president of L.A. Trade Tech College.

The chamber is encouraging more of its members to provide paid summer internships and other opportunities through the city’s Hire L.A.’s Youth program, Frank said. A number of companies have done so, including Kaiser Permanente and Bank of America. But the picture remains bleak.

A decade ago, two-thirds of young people age 16 to 24 in Los Angeles held a summer job. Less than half do now, according to Rattray.

"Where is the opportunity for our youth,” he asks.

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