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BEND, Ore. (AP) -- Jesse Lederer couldn't find a job that paid for tuition and living expenses, so he quit college and moved in with his parents.
"For a good portion of the jobs I applied to I didn't have experience in the field," he told The Bulletin of Bend. "I tried to relate it to what work I had done, but I wasn't necessarily qualified."
Employment officials say the experience for Lederer as a young worker is not unique.
Unemployment has steadily declined overall for the Oregon workforce, according to the Oregon Employment Department, but youth unemployment continues to rise.
Oregon Employment Department regional economist Carolyn Eagan said the overall unemployment rate last year was 9.4 percent but was 19 percent for workers age 16 to 24, compared to about 11 percent in 2007.
Guy Tauer, another regional economist, said young workers have lost more employment than other age group.
"It's one of the groups that has suffered the greatest," he said. "Looking at hiring data and total employment, the younger you are the worse the recession has impacted you."
Older workers are hanging onto jobs longer and delaying retirement, he said.
"It's an employer's market," he said, and employers can pick the most experienced people for jobs, putting people with less experience at a disadvantage."
Oregon in 2011 had the seventh-highest percent of unemployed teens in the country, Tauer said.
Some young adults in response turn to programs that provide job training and work.
The Heart of Oregon Corps aims give young workers in the tri-county area experience by linking them to community service, economic and educational advancement opportunities, said Amy Mentuck, director of development. Applications to the five Heart of Oregon Corps programs have doubled in the past five years, reaching about 650 applicants last year, she said. Slots were available for about half.
Lederer, now 25, was selected to work for The Heart of Oregon Corps' Clean Energy Service Corps Program. Participants develop skills in weatherization and green building by spending three to four days per week alongside construction professionals and community volunteers. They earn $2,775 for college or a technical training institute with successful completion of the program, plus a $250 living stipend per week, Mentuck said.
After participating in Heart of Oregon Corps programs, Lederer said, he saved enough money to rent a home with friends. He has been able to pursue a psychology his degree with financial aid.
"It's about being optimistic, staying persistent and being resilient," he said. "There's a lot of people going through rough times. I feel lucky and grateful for the things I do have."