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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Long-Term Unemployed Suffer from Discrimination, not Lack of Skills

Long-Term Unemployed Suffer from Discrimination, not Lack of Skills

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Friday, 29 November 2013 15:28

Floyd Norris ends an interesting discussion on the increase in the rate of long-term unemployment by telling readers that many of the long-term unemployed lack the skills to take the jobs that are available. However, there is research that suggests this is not the case.

Rand Ghayad, a researcher affiliated with the Boston Federal Reserve Bank sent out matched resumes to employers with difference being that some reported being unemployed for more than 26 weeks (the definition of long-term unemployed) and some did not. While many of the applicants who reported being short-term unemployed or currently working were called in for interviews, almost none of the applicants who reported being long-term unemployed were called back. This suggests that the main problem faced by the long-term unemployed is discrimination, not a lack of skills.

 

Note: "tern" was changed to "term" out of respect for birds everywhere.

Comments (14)Add Comment
Reality vs. Fiction, Low-rated comment [Show]
...
written by RZ0, November 29, 2013 4:47
Amazing how there was an explosion of what turned out to be incompetent employees in late 2008.
Truth is, unemployment is so high that employers have to find reasons to winnow the applicant pool. Length of time out of work is an easy one to apply and justify.
...
written by Last Mover, November 29, 2013 5:07

It's an interesting way to confirm the absence of structural unemployment. If a tight market did develop for certain skills the long term unemployed with those skills would be hired along with the others.

Otherwise if employers are seriously looking for skills they claim they cannot find, it seems they would interview more candidates to look for ones with the most potential to develop the skills in question, rather than dismissing them outright for lack of a recent job history.

Many interviews are conducted so poorly they're worthless because the interviewer doesn't know how to ask questions or judge the answers and capability of the interviewee, especially when particular skills are important.

It's one thing to go through a list of skills and experience. It's quite another to actually test someone on those skills during the interview which can reveal substantial differences among the candidates.
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written by david s, November 29, 2013 8:25
Spelled "Term" i.e. not a bird.
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written by watermelonpunch, November 29, 2013 8:57
This suggests that the main problem faced by the long-term unemployed is discrimination, not a lack of skills.


Or just straight up too few jobs for the amount of applicants seeking work.
Hire the long-term unemployed
written by BenH, November 29, 2013 11:21
James said he won't be the first to take a chance on the long-term unemployed. I would. They're more likely to be highly motivated because they need the job more.
Aren't Many of These Resumes Zapped?
written by jerseycityjoan, November 30, 2013 6:45
Don't many or even most companies set up their resume filters to eliminate resumes submitted by people out of work for over 6 months?

So companies actually do not know what these applicants had to offer. They eliminate them, resume unread except by the resume scanner set up to automatically reject the long term unemployed.

Unemployed Need Not Apply
written by Richard, November 30, 2013 9:22
This is from a couple of years ago but it is still the case today

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/26/business/help-wanted-ads-exclude-the-long-term-jobless.html
seems like a rational filter to me..., Low-rated comment [Show]
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written by watermelonpunch, November 30, 2013 12:25
written by James, November 29, 2013 5:21
They consider those folks got to have some kind of flaws for them to go unemployed that long.


Yes, their flaw might be simply having a physical limitation that prevents them from taking the "any job" that people suggest to not be unemployed in the interim.
These physical limitations tell you NOTHING about their ability for productivity, their wide experience in office management, their expertise in accounting, or their level of competency in the IT field.
They simply tell you that with arthritis, a back problem, or being in a wheel chair, prevents them from getting a job with the requirement to "bend, lift, and crouch".
If a bank manager has those same ailments, it doesn't prevent him from getting a nice orthopedic chair for his office & continuing his work. But if that same bank manager with arthritis & a back problem were to be relegated to having only the option to work on a fast food line, we'd find out quick how "unemployable" he is.

And as for the competency level in low level jobs...
Most people I know report seeing a significant reduction in work ethic, ability, and sense, among those jobs, since the recession.
In fact, I can't tell you how many times in the past 5 years, I've heard people say "but those people are [whatever], why can't [whoever] get that job? They'd be much better!"

There's a really good possible explanation for it.

In times like this, competition is so fierce, that people who've been able to manage hanging onto a supervisory position would be absolutely stupid to hire someone under them who has more qualifications & abilities & experience than they do! They'd be worried about losing their job because their boss promotes the person they hired with all these qualifications & abilities.
Believe me, the people in charge of hiring at most companies are far more concerned about their own continuing paychecks than the benefit or health of the businesses they work for.

written by jerseycityjoan, November 30, 2013 7:45
Don't many or even most companies set up their resume filters to eliminate resumes submitted by people out of work for over 6 months?


Yes. Absolutely.
Just because they stopped being blatant about it, doesn't mean they're not still using those filters.
A couple of years ago, nearly all temp agency ads in my area had a stipulation that for even the shortest term jobs (like a 4 week part time receptionist position @ $8/hr) required that the applicant not be unemployed for more than 6 weeks prior.

There are also people who are region locked. Either they have a house they can't sell, or a spouse who has a decent job in the area.

And then there are the older workers who would put up the cost of the employer's health care premiums.

I'm sure there are also those long-term unemployed who are simply at the "non star" end of their qualifications. And even people with questionable work competency.
But I have a hard time believing that explains the bulk of the long-term unemployed.

I would be interested in studies done analyzing the situations of the long-term unemployed. I would be willing to place a bet on that study, that well over half of all long-term unemployed have at least one, or some combination of those issues.

written by RZ0, November 29, 2013 5:47
Amazing how there was an explosion of what turned out to be incompetent employees in late 2008.


Exactly.
The idea that suddenly, when the economy went in the toilet, so many people became completely incompetent.

It goes against all logic.
To group all long-term unemployed in with drunks & slackers is ridiculous.

And I'm not convinced the least competent lost their jobs first. I think in many cases the highest cost employees lost their jobs first. (Their age on the health plan, higher pay, etc.) In that case, it could be that some of the most competent lost their jobs first in the recession.

Or employees in the most expendable positions. Just because someone's position was the most expendable at a given point in time, doesn't have any correlation with that employee's competency level or work ethic in that position or any other job position.
...
written by joe, November 30, 2013 12:34
pete, in 2008 productivity grew .8%. Private payroll employment fell by 4.5 million that year.

You need to check your numbers. These early layoffs did not give a boost to productivity. Productivity grew 1.5% in 2007.
correction...apparently rise in productivity during recession due to hard work...
written by pete, November 30, 2013 3:04
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written by watermelonpunch, November 30, 2013 3:39
Oh please... there's a fallacy here...

People always work harder when they're shit scared of losing their jobs.

Indeed, if they feel their very survival is threatened, they're likely to agree to risk their lives to become more productive.

It doesn't mean they're inherently more likely in any situation to be more productive. It just means that during recessions, people have a harsher pressure put on them as they see other people getting laid off, and a harder time saying "no I can't take on any more duties of more gone employees"... because they don't have anywhere to go to avoid it when employment is sky high and bargaining power is reduced.
just noticed...
written by watermelonpunch, December 01, 2013 2:36
Note: "tern" was changed to "term" out of respect for birds everywhere.


Best amend correction ever.

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Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.

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