January 25, 2010

Out of School, Out of Work

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the unemployment rate for December and the news for the District is not good. Unemployment ticked up to 12.1%, far above Maryland’s 7.5% and Virginia’s 6.9%.

Though the District added 6,100 jobs from December 2008 to December 2009, the unemployment rate jumped from 8.9% to 12.1% in the same period.

The Post speculates:

But because the labor force in the District has a large proportion of undereducated people, experts said, the majority of those high-paying jobs usually go to more qualified residents of suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia. Less-educated residents typically work in construction, which lost 200 jobs last month; in leisure and hospitality, which lost 400 jobs last month; and in retail and transportation, which lost 500 jobs last month.

Cynthia Ward, vice president of market and account services at the recruiting and career management firm Lee Hecht Harrison, said candidates who grew up in the District often are unable to compete with their suburban counterparts because of the troubled city school system.

“I graduated from the D.C. public schools, where I had been an A and B student. When I went to college, I discovered I was way behind [other students], especially in writing, and I had to work hard” to catch up, said Ward, who is on a task force seeking ways to better prepare District residents for higher-skills jobs.

Perhaps now our city will finally begin to see what everyone else has known all along: that the poor performance of our public school system is not just a civil rights disgrace, but an economic impediment, too.

Categories: Demography
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