In its lead editorial, the Sunday New York Times, called for Congressional action to address conditions of unemployment in “minority” communities. Citing the Great Cities Institute report on joblessness among young people, the editorial goes on to express outrage that Congress has rejected programs that we know work and “that could help rescue a generation of young men from failure and oblivion.”
Specifically, the New York Times editorial references a component of the Recovery Act of 2009, an employment subsidy program that “created more than 260,000 temporary jobs.” The non-profit, Economic Mobility Corporation, released an analysis in 2013 through which they concluded that this program, which placed workers largely in the private sector, not only aided local businesses that did the hiring, but also those who were hired, increasingly their likelihood of finding permanent employment.
These promising results suggest that carefully targeted subsidies that place unemployed people into private-sector jobs can be a potent tool in reducing the devastating unemployment in minority areas of big cities where young people are disconnected from work and civic life.
As the Times points out, employment subsidy programs have been around since the 1930s. They suggest, however, that such programs should be created to place individuals in the private sector, including those who may have criminal records and need the opportunity to prove themselves as “motivated workers.” “Carefully developed subsidy programs are worth pursuing even if they do not produce big earnings gains. Getting jobless young people into the world of work is valuable in itself.”
The Times Editorial is a call to congressional action but concludes that if Congress fails to act, then this is something that the states should fund.
The idea of employment subsidy programs to place workers in the private sector, as already evidenced, can yield results. A subsidized employment program for public works, as we saw from the 1930s, could also put people to work, and at the same time, rebuild the decaying infrastructure in cities and states.
We are excited that the report from Great Cities Institute is generating conversation about solutions. This is a situation that calls for an array of strategies to address a set of conditions that did not occur overnight. The urgency of joblessness among young people, particularly among young Black men, calls for our focused and concerted attention to finding solutions.