RELEASE: National Service and Youth Unemployment: Strategies for Job Creation Amid Economic Recovery

November 16, 2009

By Melissa Boteach, Joy Moses, Shirley Sagawa

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Federal investments in our national service programs are an important way for Congress and the Obama administration to tackle high unemployment and growing poverty across the nation. The almost two-year-long Great Recession appears to be giving way to an incipient economic recovery, but job growth and wage growth will be slow in the months ahead. Providing short-term employment opportunities for jobless youth and helping to build the capacity of nonprofit organizations to transform participants’ long-term career prospects would strengthen the economy and spur economic demand.

This memo provides a brief snapshot of youth unemployment and its relationship to the Great Recession and federal anti-poverty services. It describes several national service programs— including Youth corps, AmeriCorps, and VISTA—that can be part of a strategy to reverse these trends. We also offer specific policy recommendations to maximize job creation by investing strategically in national service programs.

National Service encompasses three principles that form a cornerstone of a comprehensive poverty-reduction strategy and sustainable economic recovery that lifts up all Americans:
  • Promote decent work.
  • Provide opportunity for all.
  • Ensure economic security.

By connecting unemployed youth with opportunities to serve our country and our people, investments in national service can fill the needs not only of low-income Americans but also jobless young Americans. This policy solution also helps the economy overall—putting people back to work creates economic demand that will help get the economy back on its feet.

Download this memo (pdf)