PR Newswire · 05/11/2023 07:00

Coalition Supporting Mayor-Elect Johnson by Seeking $300 Million Statewide to Get Jobs for Youth;

High Unemployment Plagues Chicago Youth, Black Female Jobless Rate Doubled after Pandemic

CHICAGO, May 11, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- As the U.S. recovers from pandemic job losses, a new report, commissioned by the Alternative Schools Network and authored by the Great Cities Institute at the University of Illinois Chicago, finds stark disparities for many Chicago and Illinois youths.

With Chicago's mayor-elect seeking to double the number of summer jobs for the city's young people of color, and a coalition of state legislators, educators and youth-oriented community groups pushing for a $300 million statewide youth-employment program, the new data brief, "Youth and Young Adults Moving Backwards Not Forward: Uneven and Missing Recoveries in Youth Employment from the COVID-19 Pandemic," provides ample documentation of the dire need for such a program while noting previous research that shows how handsomely such investments pay off.

The data shows that joblessness remains worse in Chicago and Illinois than in the U.S. For 20- to 24-year-olds White and Latino youths overall came back to pre-pandemic employment levels, but jobless rates for Black youths in Chicago and Illinois did not recover and were actually worsening.

Key report findings include:

  • The jobless rate for Black 20- to 24-year-old females in Chicago nearly doubled from 2019 to 2021, rising from 32.0 percent in 2019 to 59.3 percent in 2021.
  • The percentages of Black 20- to 24-year-old females and Hispanic or Latino males in Chicago and Illinois, who were both out of school and jobless, continued to increase from 2020 to 2021, as other groups had recovered towards pre-pandemic levels. The rate for Black young women in Chicago increased by almost 5 percentage points and in Illinois by almost 8 percentage points. The rate for the Hispanic or Latino young men in Chicago was 5 percentage points higher.
  • In 2021, 23.9 percent of Chicago's Hispanic or Latino 20- to 24-year-olds were out of school and jobless, up from 14.7 percent in 2019.
  • In 2021 there were 43,039 16- to 19-year-olds in Illinois who were both out of school and jobless; 14,665 in Cook County; and 9,041 in Chicago. For 20- to 24-year-olds, there were 134,027 in Illinois; 61,451 in Cook County; and 36,758 in Chicago.
  • Black 20- to 24-year-olds in Chicago had the biggest jump in joblessness between 2019 and 2021 for any age or other demographic group, going up 13.7 percentage points, to 57.4 percent from 43.7 percent.
  • In Illinois, the pre-pandemic gap widened between white 20- to 24-year-olds who were both out of school and jobless and youths of color in that age range.
  • In 2021, there were 439,209 jobless 16- to 19-year-olds in Illinois, 185,959 in Cook County, and 92,511 in Chicago. For 20- to 24-year-olds, there were 261,124 in Illinois, 113,284 in Cook County, and 66,866 in Chicago.

The data brief also lists the multiple benefits of such programs: "Recent evaluations of youth employment programs in major cities have affirmed their positive impact on youth outcomes, including impacts on job readiness, academic and career aspirations, social cohesion and conflict resolution skills. … The overall social benefits may outweigh costs by as much as 11 to 1."

As a plane flew overhead during a downtown Chicago news conference to release the report and push for state legislative action on the youth-employment measure, young people who attend the alternative schools displayed a coffin to dramatize the fact that young men on the West Side of Chicago have a greater likelihood of being shot and killed there than if they had served in Afghanistan or Iraq. The plane displayed a banner "Jobs Stop Bullets."

The data brief backs this up. It cites a 2012 program in Chicago that employed young people in a summer program, with half getting extra wraparound services. Violent crime dropped by 45 percent for that group during the year they participated, but the decline in crime does not stretch into the second year when the program was not administered.

"Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson has said that youth employment is one of his top priorities," state Rep. Kam Buckner, D-Chicago said. "Young people need the opportunity to work and move forward with their lives."

Legislation now working its way through the Illinois General Assembly, SB 2388 and SB 2261 would create the "Futures through Employment Program for Jobless Youth and Young Adults" which would appropriate $300 million to provide employment for more than 80,000 jobless youth and young adults across the state. Sponsored by state Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago, and Buckner, the students in it would earn $15 per hour to work from 5 to 15 hours per week from the beginning of the school year through the end of the school year (or the prevailing minimum wage in that part of the state) with a summer program of eight weeks in which students work 25 hours per week.

"If we invest in our young people, it will strengthen our state's economy for years to come," ASN Executive Director Jack Wuest said. "One of the major goals of this program is to get employers to get to know, and then hire, these young people full time when they have finished school."


The Alternative Schools Network is a not-for-profit organization in Chicago working to provide quality education with a specific emphasis on inner-city children, youth and adults. Since 1973, ASN has been supporting community based and community-run programs to develop and expand training and other educational services in Chicago's inner-city neighborhoods. In addition to supporting direct services, ASN has been a consistent and effective advocate for community-based services whereby the people involved are active participants in developing and running programs – not passive recipients of services. To shape policies and programs, ASN has built an impressive track record of operating successful education, employment and support service programs. For more information please visit


The UIC Great Cities Institute works to link academic resources with a range of partners to address urban issues by providing research, policy analysis and program development. Tied to the University of Illinois at Chicago Great Cities Commitment, GCI seeks to improve quality of life in Chicago, its metropolitan region and cities throughout the world. For more information go to




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SOURCE Alternative Schools Network