The plight of the long-term unemployed

When employers no longer even want to talk to you:

But just how bad is it for the long-term unemployed? Ghayad ran a follow-up field experiment to find out. In a new working paper, he sent out 4800 fictitious resumes to 600 job openings, with 3600 of them for fake unemployed people. Among those 3600, he varied how long they'd been out of work, how often they'd switched jobs, and whether they had any industry experience. Everything else was kept constant. The mocked-up resumes were all male, all had randomly-selected (and racially ambiguous) names, and all had similar education backgrounds. The question was which of them would get callbacks.

It turns out long-term unemployment is much scarier than you could possibly imagine.

I know this is depressing as hell, but I had to post it. Many on the right favor the meme that long-term unemployed simply aren't trying to get a job, and I'm sure there are some that aren't. But the vast majority are breaking their asses trying to find something, and they don't deserve to be treated the way the NC GOP is treating them. The sadness continues:

The results are equal parts unsurprising and terrifying. Employers prefer applicants who haven't been out of work for very long, applicants who have industry experience, and applicants who haven't moved between jobs that much. But how long you've been out of work trumps those other factors. As you can see in the chart below from Ghayad's paper, people with relevant experience (red) who had been out of work for six months or longer got called back less than people without relevant experience (blue) who'd been out of work shorter.

Look at that again. As long as you've been out of work for less than six months, you can get called back even if you don't have experience. But after you've been out of work for six months, it doesn't matter what experience you have. Quite literally. There's only a 2.12 percentage point difference in callback rates for the long-term unemployed with or without industry experience. That's compared to a 7.13 and 8.95 percentage point difference for the short-and-medium-term unemployed. This is what screening out the long-term unemployed looks like. In other words, the first thing employers look at is how long you've been out of work, and that's the only thing they look at if it's been six months or longer.

If there are any employers reading this (I'm sure there's a few), please show a little more empathy. Not to mention intelligence. The scope of this recession is such that all former assumptions should be tossed out the window. Sure, if you're connected, you can have some important people make a few calls and hook you up. Unfortunately, most of us aren't connected, but that doesn't mean we're not damned good workers. And here's the kicker: if you're a human resources director or personnel manager, and you use idiotic arbitrary methods to screen potential hires, guess who's probably going to be standing in the unemployment line soon? Exactly.


As much as we agonize over job creation numbers

you'd think that Congress was actually doing something to help the situation. It's kind of looney to wring your hands just hoping that jobs will be falling out of the sky somehow.

Congress is doing more damage than good

Cutting spending on established programs is going to swell the ranks of the unemployed, and at the worst possible time. We were just starting to come out of this recession. Were.

A real story of long-term unemployment

I have to relate a story about a friend of mine that, I fear, may be more typical of the long-term unemployed in the state.

He worked for quite a few years as a staff member for UNC-G and the School of the Arts in some fairly specialized and skilled work. He got lucky enough to get a job with a start-up company for three or four years with more money, a better health plan and benefits. In his fifties, he finally felt secure enough to buy a small home and took on a mortgage.

Then, when the economy crashed, he found himself out of work. And the old positions he was working for UNC-G and the School of the Arts had been pretty much eliminated, with only a little part-time work available. Since he's older, he has some health issues - his knees are gone and he has trouble getting around.

He has a few computer skills, but not much, and can't find any kind of steady work. The guy is willing to do manual labor, landscaping or even cleaning bathrooms, but can't find a job anywhere.

His unemployment ran out a few months ago and he lives "hand to mouth". His family's not in a position to really help him much financially and his friends have tried to help out with a few dollars when they can. He survives with a few hours of part-time work with one of the universities and a few hours of landscaping work when he can get it.

He lives on the edge of getting kicked out of his house - his mortgage is underwater because, after Greensboro build a new baseball stadium, crime and drugs migrated from the downtown area into his neighborhood, driving housing values into the ground.

His health issues are getting worse and he has no health insurance. He really needs operations on his knees, but there's no way he can afford it.

He's someone who has been very active with the Democratic party in the past, working phone banks, going door to door, and attending caucus meetings and such.

Now, he's quite angry with the Dems. The last straw for him was a few months back when he called into a town hall conference call that Kay Hagen arranged and submitted his question, which had to do with creating some kind of New Deal-style jobs program for the long-term unemployed. Hagan's staff told him she wouldn't even consider addressing the question.

This is a guy who has had national recognition for his work and desperately wants to be employed. Now, he's just being tossed aside.

This is really the kind of voter that will be an uphill battle for the Democratic Party to engage - I don't think his story is that unique. In rural parts of the state, I run into many people in their 40s or 50s in similar circumstances, laid off from factories, universities and other jobs, willing to retrain or take other types of work, but there's just nothing there for them.

My friend has very much stayed a progressive, but is angry about the Democratic Party and wants to see a progressive shake-up. He's cynical and has lost trust in the ability of the Dems now in control of the party to make any difference for people like himself. Others I've talked to have turned Republican, responding to the fear-mongering about immigration and minorities touted by FoxNews and people like Art Pope.

Seeing what's happened to my friend and people I know in other parts of NC have just made me sick about where things are headed. I have a secure job. But, if something doesn't change, I can easily see NC's economy continuing to stagnate and my own job being in danger.

The Dems can yak about jobs all they want. Unless they're willing to put some different solutions on the table and stop being afraid to act like liberals who believe in a functioning government, my votes and my energies are going towards someone who will.

I know that "tossed aside" feeling

I was out of work for 2 1/2 years, and I couldn't get anyone to talk to me, much less seriously consider hiring me. If my old company hadn't called me back, I don't know what the hell I would have done. The crazy part is, now that I'm gainfully employed again, those folks that wouldn't talk to me before would probably roll out the red carpet.