A recent U.S. Department of Labor report titled The African-American Labor Force in the Recovery found grim but not unexpected news for African-American youth. According to the report, 38.5 percent of Black youth are unemployed--compared to 8.3 percent of the general population. And that 38.5 percent figure is unrealistically low because a large, unknown number of Black teens and young adults have given up their job search and dropped out of the work force altogether.
Unemployment among urban youth has been neglected for too long. It is urgent that Congress immediately address this situation that continues to impact numerous young people in my district, as well as urban communities throughout our nation.
Early in the 112th Congress, I introduced the Urban Jobs Act (H.R. 683), which has stalled in House's legislative machinery. If it ultimately passes, this measure will improve the employment prospects of urban youth by providing resources for job training programs.
There are numerous reasons--including hiring discrimination--for this crisis. But let us not overlook the fact that many urban youth are not prepared to compete in the job market. The high school dropout rate in these communities is at crisis level, and many lack basic job and interpersonal skills that would make them employable.
The Urban Jobs Act would establish an Urban Jobs Program and allocate $20 million in federal grants to the National Urban League in Fiscal Year 2012.
Through its affiliates, located in three dozen states and the District of Columbia, the National Urban League already provides job training and other comprehensive services to prepare at-risk youth to enter the work force.
The Urban Jobs Act directs the organization to provide services to eligible individuals ages 18-24 in four specific areas: education (including GED preparation), employment readiness, comprehensive supportive services (such as childcare and interpersonal skills training), and case management.
So far, 21 House members co-sponsored my bill, which continues to languish in the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training. But I will continue to fight to move this important piece of legislation forward.
The current partisan divide in Congress has too often delayed action to address America's unemployment crisis. Republicans continue to focus on spending cuts to essential programs that this nation's most vulnerable people need to survive in these difficult economic times. But I will stand with President Obama and oppose drastic cuts and support the President's efforts to boost job creation across this country.
Jobs are not a partisan issue. Let us get all Americans working again--including our urban youth.