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Unemployment Discrimination Creates New Class of Permanently Jobless Americans

unemploymentNew research out of Northeastern University shows that businesses prefer to hire candidates with no relevant experience over someone who’s been unemployed for a long time.

Rand Ghayad, a researcher in applied economics, sent out thousands of faux resumes to hundreds of job postings, and documented employer responses. The fake candidates with large gaps in their professional resume got significantly fewer callbacks than candidates with smaller gaps — even less that those resumes from fictional candidates with zero relevant job experience.

As Ghayad explained, once a person is categorized “long-term unemployed,” even if they’ve worked in the same industry, and “even if you have the right skills, it doesn’t matter to employers anymore.  They prefer to hire someone who’s short-term unemployed.”

Employment Attorneys Cite New Form of Workplace Discrimination

Previous research by Ghayad and others showed the same results: employers simply don’t want the long-term jobless.

Following the economic downturn of 2009, nearly 40% of the unemployed have been out of work for half a year or longer, which is the length of time economists designate as “long term.” According to the Labor Department, that marks the highest rate of long-term joblessness the U.S. has seen since the 1940s, when the country was emerging from a crippling economic depression. Since March, 4.6 million people fall into this category.

Labor law attorneys Ghayad’s report is just another piece of evidence showing how long-term joblessness lasts not because workers are lazy, unqualified, or unresourceful, but simply because the abundant labor pool gives employers the luxury of being more selective in the hiring process.

Using an online job board, Ghayad sent 4,800 resumes to 600 job openings across the country. The end date of a fake candidate’s previous job showed how long a person had been unemployed. Candidates with relevant experience who were unemployed for a short time had a callback rate of roughly 16 percent. Recently unemployed candidates with no relevant experience had a callback rate of roughly 9 percent, while candidates with good experience who had been unemployed for a long time had a callback rate of roughly 3 percent.

Employers are occasionally frank about their aversion to hiring jobless candidates, telling would-be applicants not to bother if they don’t already have jobs.

Two years about, President Obama announced support for a ban on discrimination against jobless candidates as one component of his proposed job creation bill; however, Congress rejected this idea. Some states have advanced their own initiatives. The New York City Council, for example, outlawed unemployment discrimination in January.

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Emery Reddy