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Lost Youth Employment in Illinois

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Lost Youth Employment in Illinois - by Stephen Lendman

What affects Illinois plagues the nation, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting in January that:

"The unemployment rate for young Americans has exploded to 52.2% - a post-World War II high, according to the Labor Dept - meaning millions of Americans are staring at the likelihood that their lifetime earning potential will be diminished and, combined with the predicted slow economic recovery, their transition into productive members of society could be put on hold for an extended period of time."

"The number represents the flip-side to the Labor Dept's report that the employment rate of 16-to-24 year olds has eroded to 46.6 percent - the lowest ratio of working young Americans in that age group, including all but those in the military, since WWII."

The Illinois Policy Institute says the state is "in a fiscal meltdown that continues to spiral out of control," exacerbated by the economic crisis, falling tax revenues, and mismanagement in a state plagued by corruption.

As a result, it ranks in the bottom fifth of states by many key measures, including its economic outlook; Gross State Product growth; debt burden; cumulative per capita income growth; cumulative non-farm employment growth; net out-migration; and property, gasoline, and sales tax burdens.

Unsurprisingly, the state's wealth has been declining. At the same time, it's budget crisis has increased because of an expected $13 billion FY shortfall equal to about half the state's operating budget - the largest (on a per capita basis) of any state in America, including California.

To address it, huge cuts are proposed, including over $1.3 billion from education from primary through university levels. An estimated 17,000 teachers will be laid off, exacerbating an already dire situation, impacting students by school closures, larger class sizes, eliminated programs, and sharp tuition and fee increases at state colleges and universities, the University of Illinois considering a 20% hike besides large cuts in its operating budget.

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As a result in January, it furloughed over 11,000 administrators, academic professionals and faculty at Champaign-Urbana, Springfield and Chicago campuses, requiring them to take 10 unpaid days of leave by June. More expected cuts will follow given the university's budget shortfall, one expected to grow, not diminish.

In Chicago and Illinois, planned destruction of public education is part of a national effort to privatize it to deny millions of working class youths a chance for a better life, a decent job, or perhaps any at a time half the nation's young people are unemployed.

The results show up in Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies (CLMS) January 2010 report titled, "The Lost Decade for Teen and Young Adult Employment in Illinois: The Current Depression in the Labor Market for 16 - 24 Year Olds in the Nation and State."

It shows that youths failed to participate in the mid-2003 - 2007 labor market recovery, after which their employment rate fell sharply through 2009. Teens (aged 16 - 19) fared worst of all. In 2000, when employment peaked, their employment/population ratio stood at 45.2%. By 2003, it was 36.8%, then 36.4% in 2005. At the start of the late 2007 economic decline, it was 34.6%, the lowest figure since WW II, and by November 2009, it was 26.2%, overall the largest employment decline of an age group.

Young 20 - 24 year olds have also been severely impacted, especially men, Blacks, Hispanics, and non-college grads.

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Since 2000, teen employment dropped by "20 percentage points" and for 20 - 24 year olds by 13 points, numbers reflecting depression, not recession.

While in 2000, Illinois teens were 1.4 times as likely to be working as adults 55 and older (48% v. 34%). Over the past decade, it shifted dramatically to 40% for older workers to 28% for teens, Blacks faring worst with only 12% in Illinois employed. A similar pattern occurred nationally, impacting the long-term employability of those affected, especially for the state and nation's poorest and most disadvantaged.

Chicago was especially hard hit given its large Black population. In the metropolitan area in 2009, suburban teens were 1.6 times more likely to be working than their city counterparts - 25% v. 16%, and teens from low income families fared worst.

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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