THE NEW FEDERAL job-training program for area youths, announced Thursday by Mayor Washington and Labor Department officials, won't make much of a dent in the bleak youth-joblessness picture here. The program's two Job Corps Centers, one in Washington itself, the other in suburban Laurel, will provide job training for only about 3,000 youths over a two-year period. The youth-unemployment figures during that time are expected to hover in the 25,000 level. Still, that there will be such a program at all is good news. It means that some youths, now jobless, will have the chance to become part of another Labor Department statistical group: job holders.

The program in Washington is part of the new $1.5-billion federal effort to reduce youth unemployment nationally. Job Corps officials said they expect to double the number of youths (now about 22,000) currently enrolled in their training programs across the country. Some important details of the local program are as yet missing. The most important of these is exactly which federal and city agencies and private firms will have jobs waiting for those about to be trained. Federal officials who will oversee the program say this arrangement will become clear soon. They say they have "commitments" from government agencies and firms to place these youths.

Despite this crucial uncertainty, the local effort does seem worthwhile. The categories of jobs the young people will be trained for have been identified by the Labor Department as those for which workers are needed. Federal officials say the youths will be encouraged and trained to push past the entry-level positions. And the young people will receive a battery of educational, social and medical services during their stay at the centers. The training program appears sound. We'll feel more confident about all this, however, when graduates actually get placed in jobs.