Jobs initiative aimed at young people in Atlanta

A coalition of companies has announced a plan aimed at helping young people enter the work force.

Representatives of the 50 companies, known as The 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, came to Atlanta this week to join with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in announcing a job fair May 3 aimed at 16- to 24-year-olds in the city.

"As we work to expand our economy, we must ensure that all our young people can realize their potential," Bottoms said in a statement.

The target group for the project are young people who have not yet entered the labor force – and might not, without help.

These are young people who are not working and are not in school – a group of people that economists have been worried about for a long time. Even as the overall unemployment rate has dropped, the jobless rate for young people – especially in the city – has fallen dramatically too, but is still higher than the overall rate.

And as economists often note, the unemployment rate doesn’t measure how many people have dropped out – or never opted in at all.

A better guide to that is the labor force participation rate, a calculation of how many working age people are actually out there in the workforce. That rate has been lower than economists think it should be in a robust economy – a sign that many people are sitting on the sidelines.

And a big share of that has been the young people who come out – or drop out – of school and, for a range of reasons, do not get jobs or the training they need to get jobs. Experts say those people are not only deprived of income now, they may find their financial future hobbled by the bad start.

The job fair will include companies who have open jobs, but will also include help in writing resumes and other resources for job-seekers.

Among the companies that are members of the initiative are Starbucks, FedEx and Walmart. None of them are based in Atlanta.

However, the Metro Chamber and the Arthur Blank Foundation are involved and are trying to recruit local employers, according to a spokeswoman for the initiative.

Nationally, there are millions of people age 16 to 24 who are not in workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The initiative has already helped more than 175,000 young people find jobs in the first set of cities where it has launched. It is making a $1.5 million investment in each city, according to the group's spokeswoman.