08/21/2012 07:30 pm ET Updated Oct 21, 2012

Youth Employment Turning the Corner in 2012

As young Americans all across the country head back to a new school year, I'm excited to say that many more will take with them lessons learned through summer jobs.

Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual report on youth employment. The numbers show that while there's still work to be done, opportunities are growing for young people around the country.

It's no secret that the effect s of the 2007 recession had a significant impact on the job prospects for youth, but today's report showed positive signs that job prospects for young people picked up pace in 2012. Between April and July of each year, the youth labor force (16-24 year olds working or actively looking for a job) grows significantly, as large numbers of students take on summer work and new graduates enter the job market. So July traditionally marks the peak of youth employment during the year.

Today's report showed that youth employment rose by 2.1 million between April and July 2012, with 19.5 million young people employed last month. That's up from 18.6 million a year ago. The youth unemployment rate showed a significant decline, falling to 17.1% -- a percentage point from last year and down two points from 2010. Meanwhile the share of young people employed in July 2012 climbed back up to 50.2% from its historic low last year.

Youth employment increased across a wide variety of industries including education and health services, manufacturing, transportation and utilities, but there remains much work to be done, especially within communities of color. While the labor force participation rate and employment-to-population ratios for African Americans and Latinos all showed significant improvement from 2011 to 2012, both African American (28.6%) and Latino (18.5%) youth continue to have a much higher unemployment rate than their white counterparts (14.9%).

Earlier this year the president and I both took a stand for the importance of summer employment, launching our Summer Jobs+ initiative. By teaming up with committed businesses, nonprofits and cities around the country, this effort provided more than 300,000 summer job opportunities for low-income and disadvantaged youth, including more than 100,000 paid positions.

Together we're helping young people across the country realize that there's no substitute for the real world experience of work and no replacement for the dignity that comes with earning your first paycheck.