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Report: Recently jobless favored

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By McClatchy Newspapers
Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

A line divides job-seekers.

On one side are those cast recently into unemployment; on the other, those out of work six months or longer. For the latter, the situation is bleak.

In his ongoing study on long-term unemployment, economist Rand Ghayad has found that job openings generally go to the newly jobless. Thousands of employers were sent resumes that outlined very similar education and experience, except for one detail: Half the faux job-seekers had been out of work more than six months, said Ghayad, a Northeastern University professor.

Unqualified candidates recently laid off had a better chance of being called back by potential employers than well-qualified applicants who had been out of work longer.

Nationally, 37.3 percent of the unemployed have been searching for more than six months.

For those out of work, it becomes a vicious circle, said labor economist Thomas Smith of Emory University. People “start to become unemployable.”

Paul Tate, for instance, has been looking since he lost his job as safety director for a 4,000-employee Atlantic City, N.J., resort in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. He and his wife moved back to Georgia in January to live with family.

The Dalton man has sent out 493 applications and resumes in a year of searching.

Tate, 63, a 12-year U.S. Air Force veteran, has degrees in fire and safety engineering and emergency management, as well as years of supervisory positions. He has landed 16 interviews but no offers.

Sometimes, he said, a potential employer notes the long gap since his layoff. “In interviews, sometimes they ask what I've been doing since. I tell them I've been trying to find work.”

For laid-off workers still out of work when their state benefits run out, the federal government has been providing a series of extensions — up to 47 weeks for some. An estimated 1.3 million workers are receiving the extended benefits that are set to expire Dec. 28, unless Congress acts to extend it.

Across the nation, more than 4 million job-seekers have been out of work more than six months.

Long-term unemployment was a problem after the 2001 recession, but was mild compared to the current situation. Four years after the latest recession officially ended, the economy still has fewer jobs than in 2007. And nothing similar happened after previous downturns, Smith said.

“Look at the early 1980s. That was a very deep recession, but when it was over, people were re-employed pretty quickly.”

Now, company representatives look at the time since a job-seeker's last job and wonder, ‘Why hasn't someone else hired this person?' For jobs that require specialized skills, an employer thinks, ‘Maybe this person doesn't have the chops anymore,' ” Smith said. “They are using that metric to identify levels of quality in a worker's performance.”

While it is impossible to know for sure, the study offers strong evidence that companies are screening out long-term jobless

But some experts disagree.

“To think that employers would pass on somebody just because they are unemployed is wrong,” said Kurt Ronn, president and founder of Atlanta-based HRworks, whose company recruits, vets and interviews potential employees for large companies. “I would argue that they are much, much better than in the past at handling candidates fairly.”

But if there is a “red flag,” reason to doubt the applicant, the onus is on the candidate, he said. “The recruiter has a responsibility to explore gaps in a resume. Any gap needs to be explained.”

 

 
 


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