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Stimulus cash pouring into youth jobs program

DANA Hardgraves, 17, has had no luck finding a summer job so far but hopes to land one thanks to United States President Barack Obama's economic stimulus package.

"I'm looking for anything to make some money," Hardgraves, who will graduate next year from high school, said as she waited to fill out an application for a summer jobs program.

Teens who traditionally earn spending money and workplace experience working through their summer vacations find themselves competing this year with displaced workers, victims of a deep recession that has sent US unemployment to a 25-year high of 9.4 percent.

Some could find relief from a White House youth jobs program financed by the US$787 billion stimulus package that Obama hopes will turn the economy around.

The job program for Tarrant County, Texas, has received US$4.3 million from the US Department of Labor's Workforce Investment Act to provide employment for low-income people aged 14-24 this summer.

Nationally, US$1.2 billion has been dedicated to youth programs and employment.

"I estimate they plan in creating up to 400,000 jobs this summer for low-income youth," said Andrew Sum, a labor economist at Northeastern University. The White House wants to create or save 600,000 jobs in total this summer.

Jobs in Tarrant County will include clerical work in municipal offices and landscaping. The aim is to put 700 young people to work.

Hardgraves, who aspires to be a school principal some day, said she was finding it tough to find work because of competition from adults for low-wage jobs.

"I've applied at places like Six Flags (an amusement park) but adults are working there because times are hard," she said.

The economy has shed 6 million jobs since December 2007. Another 345,000 were lost last month, though the pace of losses is slowing.

"During a recession adults take jobs that teenagers normally take. You start seeing adults working in McDonald's on the weekends," said Peter Morici, an economist at the University of Maryland.

Only 30 percent of US teenagers have any kind of job, part or full-time - the lowest such number ever recorded, according to Sum.

"This really hurts retailers because kids will spend 90 to 95 percent of what they earn immediately," said Sum.

For black or Hispanic high school students in families with an annual income under US$25,000, only 8 to 9 percent have jobs, Sum said.


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