During the recent recession, thousands of workers experienced long periods of unemployment. There was little stigma attached to stating that one’s job search spanned six months or more, because everyone recognized the condition to be a reflection of economic conditions.
Today, the conversation has changed. Employers acknowledge a bias against hiring individuals who have been out of work for months. An all too common belief is that long term unemployment is a just recompense for the individual’s failings.
But, what we see in today’s job market makes little or no sense! I refer to the thousands of unemployed people who have gone without jobs for 27 weeks or more. These were employed people who were laid off and never seemed to be able to return to a normal work life. They are talented, experienced and educated. They represent a viable talent pipeline which employers seem to be deliberately ignoring and discriminating against.
The following graph illustrates the persistent high levels of long term unemployment, even after the economy started recovering from the 2007 recession.
In January 2014, the White House has stepped in to correct this situation and make sure that federal agencies and other employers give the long-term unemployed an opportunity to return to productive work lives. As of today, we still have 2.9 million, or 32% of all the unemployed in America, being unemployed for 27 weeks or more. Some of these long-term unemployed have decided to give up on workforce participation, a situation which will affect the Gross Domestic Product of our nation and damage its economy.
No amount of analysis has been able to present a coherent reason for why the long term unemployed are being ignored by recruiters – many of whom never seem to consider an applicant with a history of unemployment. In this blog, we present some facts about the long term unemployed; hoping to encourage reluctant employers to consider why employing the long term unemployed is a good idea.
Even as analysts are working hard to decipher the reasons behind qualified people being left without jobs, a look at the unemployment numbers seem to reveal a clear tendency to discriminate against ethnic backgrounds and even gender.
Older workers are also frequently the target of discriminatory hiring practices. Employers cite concerns regarding the individual’s potential health risks, current skills, and long-term commitment to the job.
It is necessary for employers to shed prejudices and preconceived notions and revise their decisions to not hire the long term unemployed – as they assume that the person is somehow unemployable. That would be a very uncharitable assumption considering the severity of the recessionary conditions and the choppy and erratic recovery – which is still not giving much comfort to many. In considering each candidate, employers should identify and explore specific concerns rather than acting on broad generalizations. Use aptitude tests and in-depth technical interviews to assess skills. Reference checks as well as discussions regarding how the person spent their unemployment period can indicate the candidate’s work ethic. Abide by government standards when considering potential health issues. Also, judge candidates by the same standard that is applied to incumbent workers. For example, if the average tenure of your employees is four years, then why would you hesitate to hire somebody who is 58 years old, fearing that they may elect to retire in seven years? And, don’t assume that everyone over age 50 is about to be struck down by a debilitating condition that will result in long absences from work!
Biases can creep into all aspects of employment. Scrutinize your current hiring practices to determine if you might be inadvertently discriminating against the-long-term unemployed.
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