Washington Redskins coach Jack Pardee succeeded George Allen in an off-the-field endeavor yesterday, kicking off a six-week areawide campaign to find some 40,000 jobs for youths during the summer.
"I remember my first summer job and I know how important it can be in providing confidence and purpose to our youth," Pardee told a downtown news conference.
Meanwhile, government jobs statistics released yesterday showed an improvement in the unusually high unemployment rate of the District during February. The city's jobless rate fell to 7.9 percent of the work force compared with 8.4 percent in January.
Unemployment for youths between 16 and 19 years old has been estimated at 14 percent for the area and close to 30 percent for D. C., not counting an influx for students after school closes in June.
Questions to local business leaders about whether they remember their first summer jobs and "the hard lessons of discipline and punctuality and "responsibility" are central to an advertising campaign launched yesterday to convince firms that youths should be hired.
As for Pardee, he recalled yesterday that his first job, was with a seed corn firm in Iowa, taking tassels off corn for 25 cents an hour.
Although the local campaign has no specific goal, business and government leaders said yesterday they want to surpass the record of more than 38,000 summer jobs identified last year.
Telephone calls are being placed to some 40,000 area private employers in the District, Maryland and Virginia. Once a business indicates a job availability, regional employment services are notified and qualified young people are referred.
This year's campaign - the 14th annual jobs promotion - is being sponsored for the first time by organizations that embrace suburban as well as city businesses.
joining the Metropolitian Washington Board of Trade and National Alliance of Businessmen, sponsors for 13 years, are the chambers of commerce in Alexandria, the District and Arlington, Fairfax, Montgomery, Prince Geroge's and Charles counties.
Last year, suburban chamber spokesmen had expressed unhappiness about what they viewed as a D. C. business community domination of the jobs program.
The summer program is designed for in-school youths between the ages of 16 and 21. Similar programs have been staged in other cities but National Alliance of Businessmen officials have said the D.C. area efforts has been the most successful in the nation, to date.
Former Redskins coach Allen, who previously headed the Washington area campaign, has become national chairman of the NAB summer youth jobs program. In the D. C. area last summer, about 25 percent of the 38,631 jobs identified were in the city and the rest in the suburbs.
Area jobs figures released yesterday showed a mertopolitan unemployment rate in February of 5 percent compared with 5.1 percent in January and a U. S. average of 6.1 percent in February. All figures are adjusted to reflect normal seasonal variations.
Compared with a year ago, there has been a significant improvement in the area jobs situation. Area unemployment has declined by 10,800 while D. C. unemployment dipped 7,100.
Altogether, total civilian employment in the area for February was 1.43 million, a gain of 15,300 jobs in the past year. D. C. employment rose 8,400 over the 12 months to 299,000, the city's Department of Manpower said.
All sectors of the local economy increased employment in the past year with services up to 11,600 and the wholesale-retail trade up to 10,600.
In addition to general campaign chairman Pardee, other officials of the summer jobs program include Jo Tashima of Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co., Debby Kraut of Georgetown University and Phil Alter of Washington Gas Light Co.