Understanding Long Term Un-employability | DCR Workforce Blog

Understanding Long Term Un-employability

Un-employabilityDuring 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.

Understanding Long Term Un-employability

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.

  • They have the necessary skills and work experience to rapidly come up to speed, resulting in a lower investment in training costs and time than with an inexperienced new hire. Even if their skills are outdated, they may still be ready to come on board faster, given their overall experience levels.
  • Most of these unemployed have been actively and persistently seeking work, but never seem to progress beyond the initial stages, as they cannot provide current references.
  • Many of the unemployed are educated and have college degrees.
  • Numerous studies have demonstrated that when an individual returns to work after a long period of unemployment, they bring with them a high level of enthusiasm, commitment to succeed, and feelings of loyalty toward the new employer.

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.

Understanding Long Term Un-employability

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.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.