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Teen’s fruitless job search sign of big W.Va. problem

BECKLEY, W.Va. — Josh Gardner said he’s looked “everywhere” for a job. When pressed a bit harder about where “everywhere” includes, the 19-year-old rattles off fast food joints, grocery and convenience stores and even a car wash and landscaping company.

“If there is a help wanted sign, I am filling out an application,” he said Wednesday afternoon.

 Gardner, reed-thin, with a shock of blond hair, said he has a stable work history, but currently landing a job is “really hard.” His last job ended shortly after Christmas, holiday help at a chain store.

By Wednesday afternoon, Gardner said, he’s placed more than half a dozen applications at various businesses this week, including a landscaping company that he heard was hiring from a friend.

Gardner, like millions of other youth, faces a problem that is plaguing his generation — the inability to find employment. In April, youth non-seasonal unemployment rate hit 13.8 percent nationwide. That figure does not include the estimated 1.8 million young adults that are not counted as unemployed, because they have given up searching for a job.

Last year, West Virginia’s unemployment rate for job seekers in Gardner’s age group was 23.3 percent, according to WorkForce West Virginia. That is up from 18.8 percent in 2012 and 19.1 percent the year before, according to the Department of Labor’s annual data on the issue.

While the state’s unemployment rate yo-yos, its youth unemployment rate is a fully-inflated balloon headed only in one direction — up. The U.S. Labor Department estimates more than 20,000 youth are unemployed in the Mountain State.

The debate at the national level on youth unemployment centers around urban issues and college graduates with massive student loan debt. What’s not being discussed, according to those who study the issue of youth unemployment, is what is happening in rural areas…


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