NELP Applauds Administration Effort to Boost Hiring of Long-Term Unemployed

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National Employment Law ProjectThe National Employment Law Project welcomed the Obama administration's announcement of its latest efforts to improve the job prospects of the nation's nearly three million long-term unemployed.

In January, the administration launched a campaign to enlist businesses in a pledge to recruit and hire more long-term unemployed applicants and to refrain from hiring discrimination against them; nearly 300 companies took that pledge. The administration has now, working with business leaders, human resource professionals, and local public-private workforce partnerships, rolled out significant steps to boost the hiring of people experiencing long-term unemployment.

"President Obama has honored his word to the nation's jobless, that the administration will move the employer community and maximize federal resources to address the continued crisis of long-term unemployment," said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project.

"Even as the unemployment rate declines, America's long-term unemployed are facing a tougher struggle to find work than other job-seekers. They face unfair barriers to employment in the form of hiring biases, discriminatory practices, and applicant-screening systems that too often exclude them from consideration despite excellent job qualifications. We are especially pleased to hear that, thanks to the administration's engagement with employers on this issue, companies are significantly changing their recruiting, screening, and hiring practices to eliminate such barriers and clear a path to employment opportunities for the unemployed and long-term unemployed," said Owens.

The National Employment Law Project has led advocacy efforts to end hiring practices that discriminate against unemployed job-seekers since issuing its groundbreaking 2011 report, Hiring Discrimination Against the Unemployed.

Today's announcement by the administration included the following:

  • A White House roundtable meeting on October 15 convened chief human resource officers from 30 of the nation's largest companies, including CVS, Delta, Procter & Gamble, and others, that are adopting best practices to recruit and hire long-term unemployed job-seekers, and enacting hiring procedures to protect against discrimination based on periods of unemployment.
     
  • Two new handbooks - one for employers, Guide to Recruiting and Hiring the Long-Term Unemployed; and one for job-seekers, New Guide, New Destinations - were widely tested and will offer guidance on specific programs and best practices to eliminate unemployment discrimination and increase the hiring of the long-term unemployed. The materials are being widely marketed through AARP and other organizations.
     
  • Ready to Work Partnership grants totaling $170 million were awarded to 23 partnerships in 20 states and Puerto Rico (averaging $3 million to $10 million each) for special initiatives that prepare and place the long-term unemployed in good jobs. These programs focus on employer engagement, individualized counseling, job-placement assistance, and work-based training-all specifically geared to the hiring of the long-term unemployed in middle- and high-skill jobs.
     
  • The federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued a new guidance to federal agencies' hiring managers today, in response to President Obama's Memorandum of January 31, 2014, to help ensure that unemployed applicants and those who have experienced financial difficulties through no fault of their own are not unfairly denied federal employment opportunities.

    For example, the guidance states that "job announcements generally should not include a requirement that applicants be currently or recently employed, which discourages unemployed workers." And it directs the agencies to include the following language in their outreach material: "It is the policy of the Government not to deny employment simply because an individual has been unemployed or has had financial difficulties that have arisen through no fault of the individual." In addition, OPM issued a "myth buster" geared to the general public and workers interested in applying for federal employment to help clarify federal hiring policies designed to prevent discrimination against the unemployed.

"We applaud these efforts to encourage hiring of the long-term unemployed and call on policymakers to scale up these and other reemployment programs nationwide," said Owens. "These initiatives are a hopeful sign that businesses and government can work together to help alleviate the harmful job-market distress facing the long-term unemployed. Still more, much more, can and should be done to address the needs of the long-term unemployed."

A January 2014 policy brief from NELP - Tackling the Long-Term Unemployment Crisis: What the President, Congress and Business Leaders Should Do - lays out a comprehensive agenda for reducing long-term unemployment, and includes several proposals closely mirrored in the administration's initiative.

Despite receding from the headlines, the crisis of long-term unemployment-the defining feature and legacy of the Great Recession-persists for many Americans. At nearly three million, there are still more long-term unemployed than at the peak of all prior post-war recessions. That comparison also holds true for the percentage of the unemployed out of work for 27 weeks or longer (31.9 percent in Sept. 2014) and for the average duration of joblessness (31.5 weeks).

This year has been especially difficult for the long-term unemployed, as they have been cut off from federal extensions of jobless aid as a result of Congress's failure to renew the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program at the end of 2013.

NELP called for the administration's initiatives to be scaled up nationally, along with additional programs and funding to provide high-quality, personalized reemployment services as well as subsidized jobs for those long-term unemployed workers who need them. It also called for measures to help prevent long-term unemployment, including rapid-response-type job-matching and placement services early in the job search, and legislation to prohibit employment discrimination based on an individual's unemployed status.


The National Employment Law Project is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and advocates on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers. For more about NELP, visit www.nelp.org.

Original Press Release