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Study finds youths of color have fewer summer job offers in Illinois

by Terri Dee
Illinois News Connection

CHICAGO - Summer jobs are a boost for companies needing seasonal help. But Black and Latino youths are not seeing the opportunities come their way.

A report by the University of Illinois-Chicago Great Cities Institute has found these teens face fewer job prospects than white applicants.

Illinois State Graphic The Illinois Department of Employment Security indicates 16 to 24-year-olds have had the highest unemployment rate among all age groups - including those at retirement age - since 2017.

Great Cities Institute Research Assistant Samantha Sepulveda Santos said some neighborhoods are struggling more than others.

"We can see," said Sepulveda Santos, "that the highest percentages of joblessness among students in Chicago - which is 93% - were found in areas in the South and Southwest. In Hilton, Bridgeport, McKinley Park, Fuller Park, and Back of the Yards."

Recovery time from pandemic-related shutdowns in the Chicago Public Schools system was slower than other area districts, according to the report.

Sepulveda Santos said she believes this data supports the necessity to implement programming for equal employment opportunities.

The report claims more than 163,000 16 to 24-year-olds in Chicago are unemployed and not enrolled in high school or college.

Sepulveda Santos acknowledged that competition is harder for these youths to enter a trade school to receive technical training for in-demand jobs - which could contribute to higher disparity numbers.

"And another factor we allude to as well is that not all people have the same opportunities," said Sepulveda Santos. "Not all people have the same networking, the same preparation for cover letters, for interviews. Most people have a leg up to be able to ask an aunt, an uncle, a neighbor for a job, as other people do."

The institute is seeking funding for a youth employment training program to teach teens about applying for jobs and being productive workers upon hire.

The study also suggests if Illinois spent $300 million on youth employment, crime rates could be reduced.

Figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show in July 2023, the unemployment rate nationwide for Black youth was 18%, nearly 11% for Latinos, and 7% for white youths.