In an article in today’s Washington Post, it was reported that your odds of getting a call back for a job interview are much lower if you’ve been unemployed for 6 months or more. There could be several reasons for this that the article covers, including perceptions that long-term unemployed:
- Have outdated skills
- May take jobs out of necessity, only to quit when something better comes along
- Might be lazy or unmotivated
It is enough of a problem that employers brazenly state in job advertisements that the unemployed need not apply. It is so widespread that many states are adopting new laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of current employment status.
Not everyone agrees
On the other side of the issue, opponents of these laws say that this could ultimately lead to lawsuits that push employers not to hire at all out of defensiveness. The New York Times reported Mayor Bloomberg of New York was against such laws:
But the measure has been criticized by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has called it “misguided” and intends to veto it. He and other opponents, including many business leaders, say that an employer has a right to consider what a person was doing before applying for a job, and that the legislation could spur numerous lawsuits by unsuccessful applicants and deter companies from hiring anyone at all. In a rare public split with Mr. Bloomberg, Ms. Quinn said she had enough support to override a mayoral veto.
Coming from France, I know from experience that laws about hiring and firing have made it harder to hire people and to take risk on employees that don’t fit the perfect mold. Laws don’t solve unemployment problems but they serve those employed very well…sometimes too well. My observation of the U.S. job market has been that while there are fewer worker protections, there are also fewer barriers to being hired after a short-term employment, being fired or unemployment. The freedom to hire and fire works benefits both employers and employees.
But that starts to fall apart when the long-term unemployed can’t find work. Is that a scenario that needs government intervention? Should that intervention be in the form of laws or is the effort better spent offering incentives to employers or training for the unemployed? With 4.7 million Americans out of work for 27 weeks or more, this is a challenge that is worthy of discussion. What do you think?