Mayor Marion Barry called jobs a high priority in his campaign and in his newest budget, but budget cutbacks this year and proposed reductions next year would sharply reduce summer youth jobs and city-financed jobs programs.
Roughly equal reductions in federal and local funds this year will cut the city youth jobs program this summer by nearly 4,000 jobs, almost 20 percent. The cutback to fewer than 15,000 summer jobs would mean the lowest level since before Barry took office in 1979.
In addition, Barry has proposed deep cuts in year-round job subsidy programs and in summer youth jobs as part of his plan for the 1984 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
The mayor's budget proposals would reduce both enrollment levels and funds in three programs designed to create jobs year-round for unemployed, single heads of households and for young people. Summer jobs would be cut by another 580 for the summer of 1984.
Some of the reductions would be offset by a newly created program to provide technical training to give individuals marketable skills, but not jobs themselves.
These changes together represent a fundamental shift in city programs away from providing jobs, often by paying part of the salaries for employes in private industry, to providing skilled training, particularly in new fields such as computers or cable television.
With unemployment in the District hovering around 11 percent, the cuts follow on the heels of Barry's reelection campaign in which job creation was a major theme.
Council Member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4), chairman of the Housing and Economic Development Committee, said late last week she was concerned about the newly proposed jobs reductions on top of the mayor's plan to eliminate General Public Assistance for the unemployed disabled.
"If you are going to take people off public assistance you can't on the other hand cut the job opportunities," Jarvis said. "I must say I am surprised, considering the mayor's jobs, jobs, jobs emphasis."
Community groups also reacted with surprise and concern, particularly in the summer youth program.
"Barry was elected in part on the basis of youth employment," said James Kalish, executive director of the Washington Council of Agencies, noting that he supported the mayor's reelection bid. "It's a switch over to the corporate world," Kalish said, referring to additions in capital projects and road repair funds of interest to business. "It is more than a subtle change in the whole attitude of the D.C. government."
City officials declined to discuss the proposed jobs-program reductions.
Barry acknowledged in his message that under his new budget proposal the city would directly provide jobs and training for only 10 percent of those needing such aid, but he said that this is better than most major cities, which are expected to fill only 4 percent of those needs in 1983.
When Barry ran for office the first time, he promised to create 30,000 summer youth jobs. The program reached only 28,000 at its height and was plagued by missing paychecks and mass confusion in the first years of the Barry administration. The management problems were corrected, but the numbers started to drop after 1979.
This summer the city expects to finance 6,000 youth jobs from the current year's budget, Department of Employment Services budget documents indicate, down from 8,000 last summer. The federal government will finance 8,400 more, down from 10,300 last year, said William Haltigan, the Philadelphia-based regional director of the U.S. Labor Department's employment and training administration, which oversees the program.
The Greater Washington Board of Trade underwrites summer youth jobs, about 1,000 last year, the group said. But with the recession, the board is concerned about what it will be able to do this summer, said board Chairman Thomas J. Owen, chairman of Perpetual American Federal Savings and Loan Association.
Although the group usually begins seeking support for the program about April, it already has sent out a solicitation for funds this year, to get business people thinking about the program early, he said.
The mayor's budget envisions a net decline of 9.6 percent in the number of persons in city jobs programs between this fiscal year and next. The new training program would have an enrollment of 720, while summer and year-round jobs programs combined would be cut by 1,560 positions in fiscal 1984.
Aside from summer youth jobs, the Adults with Dependents program would show the largest drop, from 1,360 to 790. That program provides on-the-job training to single heads of households who have been unemployed at least a month. The city and the employer each pays half of the individual's salary for jobs such as food service workers or auto mechanics.
The Out-of-School Employment program, providing work and training for 15- to 24-year-olds who have graduated or dropped out of school, would be reduced from 760 to 410 jobs.
The In-School program, which finances part-time jobs for 14- to 21-year-olds in danger of dropping out of school for economic reasons, would decrease from 620 participants to 560.