Just when I thought our youth unemployment rates couldn’t get any worse compared to other states, I found the 2007 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the 16 to 19 year old and all age group unemployment rates. It looks like our youngest KERA educated kids in the job market are more unemployable than ever before.
The first figure shows how our 16 to 19 year old unemployment rate compares to the average for the seven states that surround us. As you can see, we are in the worst position ever, with a rate 6.7 points higher than the average for our neighboring states. The growing trend of decay for Kentucky is also unmistakable in this figure.
Not shown in the figure, our 2007 youth unemployment rate of 23.1 percent is also the highest among Kentucky and its seven neighboring states.
OK, you say, maybe the overall rate in Kentucky is up, too. Maybe the youth increase is just following an overall trend. Well, guess again.
I checked that excuse out, and it didn’t wash. This next figure shows the youth rate and the rate averaged across all age groups in Kentucky.
Notice that the overall average unemployment in the state stayed fairly stable over the years. The growth is in youth unemployment only, as the next figure shows. The gap between the youth unemployment rate and the overall average rate in Kentucky has been growing ever since the KERA school assessments started in 1992.
This leads us to a major promise from KERA — that our kids would get better educations that would make them more employable.
Well, it isn’t happening. Despite the fact that the overall unemployment rate trend shows jobs are not drying up here, the kids are not getting hired out of high school.
This is a major problem — one that policymakers simply cannot ignore any longer. KERA is failing these kids, and failing them in sharply increasing numbers.
If you want to see the latest BLS report, click here. It won’t be happy reading, unless you are an older Kentuckian who was educated before KERA came along.