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Bleak teen jobs outlook: 25 percent unemployment and stiff competition

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"The more work experience they have, the higher the wage when they reach ages 20 to 25 years," says Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. "Many employers who are hiring say the kids don't have the 'soft' skills, but the only way to get them is to be in the workforce. So not having a job today affects employability in the future."

The scarcity of jobs for teens comes at a time when many are starting to search for summer jobs. In 2009, as part of the Obama stimulus program, Congress set aside $1.2 billion for youth activities, including summer jobs. But that money is now gone.

As a result, even jobs such as working as a lifeguard are expected to be in shorter supply. For example, New York City will create 23,000 summer jobs, down from 52,000 two years ago.

Many mayors are scrambling to raise money from the private sector to fund summer jobs. In Louisville, Ky., Mayor Greg Fischer has collected $420,000 in pledges – enough money to provide summer jobs for a couple hundred kids, says Michael Gritton, executive director of KentuckianaWorks, a workforce development agency.

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