Obama: Let's help the long-term unemployed

McClatchy Washington BureauJanuary 31, 2014 

President Barack Obama on Friday urged American companies -- as well as Congress -- to help the nearly 4 million long-term unemployed.

"Folks who have been unemployed the longest often have the toughest time getting back to work," Obama said. "It's a cruel catch-22. The longer you're unemployed, the more unemployable you may seem."

According to one study Obama cited, those who have been out of work eight months are likely to get called back for an interview only about half as often as those who have been out of work one month, even with the identical resume.

"Statistically the long-term unemployed are often times slightly better educated, in some cases better qualified, than folks who just lost their job," Obama said. "Just because you have been out of work for a while does not mean that you are not a hard worker. Just means you had bad luck or you were in the wrong industry or you lived in a region of the country that's catching up a little slower than others in the recovery."

Obama spoke in the East Room of the White House, alongside Vice President Joe Biden, after he met with CEOs of some of the nation's largest public and private businesses.

He continued to urge Congress to pass benefits for more than one million of the nation's unemployed.

"Last month Congress made that harder by letting unemployment insurance expire for more than a million people," he said. "And each week that Congress fails to restore that insurance, roughly 72,000 Americans will join the ranks of the long-term unemployed who've also lost their economic lifeline."

But, he said. whille Congress continues to debate the issue he's going to go ahead and act.

Obama announced that more than 300 companies, including 80 of the nation's largest businesses, have agreed to a new policy spelling out ways they will try to recruit and hire the long-term unemployed.

The companies will ensure advertising does not discourage or discriminate against the unemployed; review recruiting procedures so that they do not intentionally or inadvertently disadvantage people based solely on their unemployment status; encourage all qualified candidates to apply; and share information about hiring the long-term unemployed within their companies and across their supply chains and the business community.

Several companies and organizations have already commit to expand efforts to recruit or hire the long-term unemployed. They include LinkedIn, Skills for America’s Future, National Fund for Workforce Solutions, Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, Per Scholas, Goodwill Industries, JPMorgan Chase, AARP Foundation, Platform 2 Employment and PG&E.

He signed a presidential memorandum to ensure the federal government adopts these practices.

"They just need employers to realize it doesn't reflect at all on their abilities or their value," Obama said of the unemployed. "It just means they've been dealing with the aftermath of this really tough job market. And all they need is a fair shot, and with that shot, an out of work young person can get the critical experience he needs to improve his employment prospects for the rest of his life."

Obama also announced a $150 million grant competition through the Department of Labor to support public-private partnerships geared toward helping prepare and place the long-term unemployed in open positions. Applications will be available next month and awards will be made in mid-2014.

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