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Bleak picture for Mo. youth unemployment

AP Missouri


ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Agencies remain locked in efforts to hire young adults for the summer and beyond, in the face of a stubborn jobless rate for the demographic in Missouri.

A new national report by a Washington, D.C.-organization seeks to raise awareness of unemployment trends in the state among those 16 to 24 years old, along with expanding job opportunities. Research by Young Invincibles shows that the jobless rate for the category in Missouri stands at 16.1 percent. The state’s overall jobless rate was 6.6 percent in April, while the national rate for the month was 7.5 percent. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said youth unemployment measured 17.1 percent last July.

Young Invincibles called for government, the private sector, nonprofit groups and educators to cooperate in assisting the younger generation.

“Over the last decade, economic opportunity for young adults in Missouri has fallen dramatically and the recession has made it worse,” the organization said. “As income and job prospects dwindle, more young people find themselves in part-time work, or out of the labor force entirely.”

The report said a much smaller proportion of young Missouri residents now have full-time jobs than in 2005, “which is explained only partly by increased school enrollment … The challenges facing Missouri’s youth could depress economic opportunity for all Missourians for years to come.”

But several officials told the News-Press last week their staffs are heavily involved — at this time of year and otherwise — in offering jobs to young adults.

“We do hire some youth for concession workers,” said Chuck Kempf, who manages recreation programs for the city of St. Joseph. “We hire youth for lifeguards. We do have a few jobs at the REC Center.”

For most other jobs, such as those in maintenance and athletics that involve working with equipment, the department requires that applicants be at least 18. Those with prior city work experience stand a good chance of being hired although some seasonal jobs, such as mowing, are more suited to older applicants.

Parks programs that occur throughout the year dictate the type of hires, said city Parks, Recreation and Civic Facilities Director Bill McKinney. A total of 214 part-time positions will be staffed this year. Referees and scorekeepers are among the jobs at the REC Center.

Among other examples, Mr. McKinney said a total of 60 people will work at 13 locations during the year. Nearly that many will help staff the Aquatic Park, Krug Pool and Hyde Pool. A crew of 15 will handle summer maintenance and clubhouse concessions at Fairview Golf Course.

The St. Joseph Youth Alliance has 125 participants in training and work programs designed for those 15½ to 21 years old, said Rhonda Ewing youth employment director.

Some of the participants already have completed a job readiness class and employee orientation training.

“Now we want to move them on to that next stage: actual job experience,” Ms. Ewing said.

The alliance is interested in adding to its base of St. Joseph employers who participate in the programs.

“Right now we have existing partners, but we’re recruiting new partners,” she said.

Robin Hammond, the alliance’s executive director, said the organization also is cooperating with the Missouri State Parks Youth Corps, searching for those who are interested in working outdoors.

Two Northwest Missouri state parks are among those seeking workers for various summer projects that can help develop leadership skills.

“We’re trying to get them filled,” said Amber Terry, superintendent of Lewis and Clark State Park near Rushville, Mo. “We’ve got small maintenance repairs, small construction jobs.”

The state program is geared toward 17- to 23-year-olds and operates from May 1 to Oct. 31, paying a $7.35 hourly minimum wage for 300 hours of work.

“We’d love to have more applicants,” Ms. Terry said. “The more, the better.”

Crowder State Park near Trenton, Mo., already has filled its allotment of five positions under the corps program, said natural resource manager Anna Persell.

“It’s fewer than last year,” she said. Some of the youths will interpret park programs and special events for schools, while others will work with maintenance, siding, roofing and painting.

The program renders a valuable service to the park, Ms. Persell said.

“It does help us a lot,” she said. “We would not be able to accomplish those things without their assistance.”


Information from: St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press,