A Message from JobsFirstNYC
On Thursday, May 7, 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio offered first-look details regarding a $78.3 billion proposed executive budget for New York City's 2016 fiscal year. This information is the most specific available to-date regarding the underwriting of his progressive agenda. The spending plan for the budget includes a wide array of compelling and pressing concerns for the City, including housing, infrastructure, and education. The plan also proposes creating a $1 billion reserve fund for future expenses.
The scope of the budget is expansive and as the final proposals were solidified the array of interests and concerns pressed by the City Council and by outside entities were likely considerable. However, it is striking to see that there are virtually no details regarding expenditures for young adults in New York City who are neither in school nor working. According to research JobsFirstNYC published last July in Unleashing the Economic Power of the 35 Percent, more than 1 in 3 New Yorkers between 18 and 24 are both not in school and not working, or if employed, substantially under-employed and not able to sustain jobs paying above the minimum wage.
Given that young people represent the future of our workforce and the City's overall economic health, and given the Mayor's commitment to addressing income inequality through things like raising the minimum wage, the lack of their inclusion appears to short-change the City's own ability to invest in its future.
However, public disinvestment in out-of-school and -work young adults is not new, unfortunately, and as a consequence, the circumstances for this group have not dramatically changed in several decades. This disinvestment further erodes the City's capacity to shore its economic productivity, notably in jobs related to the service economy.
As JobsFirstNYC shared in a recent brief, young adults in New York City are contending with unprecedented difficulties in the local labor market. Since 2000, through periods of both overall economic growth and contraction, the share of 16- to 24-year-olds who are working has steadily fallen. A recent report from the Brookings Institution found that just 54.5 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds in the New York City region were employed in 2010-11, the fourth lowest rate among the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. For 16- to 19-year-olds, the rate was 19.3 percent, fifth lowest among the 100 largest metro areas. Both figures are believed to be the lowest on record.
The long-term trend of public sector disinvestment in training and employment services, combined with employers increasingly basing their hiring decisions on demonstrable skills and previous work experience, has created an almost impossible situation for young adults without a college education who seek stable, career-track employment at a family-supporting wage. This is particularly the case here in New York City, where job growth has concentrated at the extremes of the labor market: high-paying jobs - which require a level of education and skill that young adults typically lack - and low-wage, low-skill jobs, for which young adults must more often compete against older jobseekers in order to gain a minimal foothold in the labor market.
At JobsFirstNYC, we are focused on structural solutions for this group of young people, including the creation of the Young Adult Sectoral Employment Project, which strives to make better, systemic connections among workforce providers training and supporting young adults in their transition to employment, and to the employers that have available jobs. We have also called for the creation of Youth Opportunity Centers, which would create mechanisms for 30,000 more young people who are disengaged to have key access to services and training directly in the communities where they live, and also have access to the range of social, educational, and economic supports they will need to succeed.
The cost of doing nothing for this group of young people has been and will remain very high, a figure estimated to be $300 billion over the lifetime of the current 305,000 under-employed, or out-of-school and out-of-work young New Yorkers. JobsFirstNYC urges the de Blasio administration to consider that as budget negotiations continue and to make a clear investment in the City by investing in young people whose economic potential can be a significant driving force for our economy now and for years to come.
Although New York City's unemployment rate has plummeted in recent months, economic recovery remains little more than a rumor for the more than 300,000 New Yorkers between 18 and 24 years old who are not in school and out of work or stuck in low wage jobs-a number comprising 35 percent of all New Yorkers in that age range. For this group, the Mayor's Executive Budget offers little support to their current challenges and long-term needs.