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Madison County: Jobless rate up

Employment and Training Department Director Lorraine Schmidtka reported to the Madison County Social and Mental Health Committee July 28 that unemployment numbers crept up to 5.2 percent in June, and she was predicting that number to high 5.5 percent when the July numbers were tallied by the state Department of Labor.

Schmidtka did not update the unemployment rate at the Social and Mental Health Committee's August meeting, but said there were 1,000 visits to the center in July.

"Nothing unusual is going on, but we're seeing a few more people," Schmidtka said. "The rate I think what we're seeing is discouraged workers. We're not in a seasonal unemployment time right now, so that's not it. It's a reflection of the general economy and where we are today."

According to Schmidtka, 74 young people were employed by the Summer Youth Program.

"Places that used to hire kids aren't doing so this summer," Schmidtka said. "It's the worst summer for youth employment in history."

Supervisor James Goldstein (D,C,I -- Lebanon) expressed concern for the connection between crime rates and the economy.

"I have literally seen elderly people who should be retired in places like McDonald's, competing with kids for jobs," Goldstein said. "Crime rates are going to go up. When people are working and able to pay their bills, they have a sense of value."

Schmidtka said she believed budget cut projections would be upheld.

"Your budget is reimbursed 100 percent?" Goldstein asked.

"Yes," Schmidtka said, adding that she lobbied hard for the summer youth employment program because the worst place for at-risk youth is on the streets.

"Dollars are going down," Schmidtka said. "The majority of it will be in calendar year 20o8, with a bit in 2009. There's so much uncertainty in Albany, we don't know what's going to happen."

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