Numbers alone may not fully measure the success of a summer jobs program, but when 23,000 city residents between 14 and 21 find work, that's no shabby statistic. And when the District of Columbia can make good on its pledge to place every applicant, it's good news. With relatively few complaints, the third largest program of its kind in the country (behind New York and Chicago) was a job well done.

You can always find some kids who did next to nothing for a few hours a day, or who complained that their jobs were menial, unfulfilling or not lucrative enough. That's hardly unheard-of in the adult world; nobody yet has figured out a foolproof way to match everybody with the perfect job.

Yet, by and large, the jobs provided by the city, by nonprofit organizations and by private firms were real ones -- many of which resulted in visible improvements. Start, for example, with the 600 worn stop signs that were replaced at hundreds of intersections around the city. While these new signs do not guarantee better behavior by motorists, they sure look better.

During the program's first week, there were more than 500 complaints of late payments -- but nothing like the foulups of only a few years ago. By the last week, the number of complaints had dropped to about 100. In any case, most late checks were delivered within a day of the regular payday, according to Matthew F. Shannon, director of the city's department of employment services. Most delays apparently were caused by last-minute transfers from one work site to another.

Transfers, delayed checks and a few dull hours here and there are not fun. But delayed checks are better than no checks. The city's effort was impressive.