A report released Tuesday shows Illinois is one of the top ten worst states for youth joblessness. The report, commissioned by the Alternative Schools Network and written by Andrew Sum and the Center for Market Labor Studies at Northeastern University in Boston, shows the teen employment rate in Illinois fell 22.2 percentage points from 1999-2000 to 2010.
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Jack Wuest, executive director of Alternative Schools Network, says as industrial jobs have dried up, adult workers are taking jobs traditionally filed by teenagers. “You get a bump down…the adults then look for jobs in service sectors that teens might have had,” Wuest said. Educational status also has an impact on teen employment across the state. The report shows that more than 70 percent of high school dropouts in the state disconnected from both work and school. Wuest says the news is bad for communities. “Having more work helps not only the young people, helps build our workforce for the future, helps make our communities safer,” Wuest says. Federal programs that put teenagers to work ended in 2000. The movement resurged in 2009 with the president’s stimulus plan, but dollars and employment have declined since. Wuest says there is an initiative under way in Washington to provide federal funds for teen workers. The hope is to have Illinois’ members of Congress jump on board in support of the bill.