Economy,  Stateside

Unemployed need not apply

It’s a depressing sign of the times in the US that some companies advertising job openings are telling the unemployed not to bother applying.

The New York Times reports:

A recent review of job vacancy postings on popular sites like, CareerBuilder and Craigslist revealed hundreds that said employers would consider (or at least “strongly prefer”) only people currently employed or just recently laid off.

Unemployed workers have long suspected that the gaping holes on their résumés left them less attractive to employers. But with the country in the worst jobs crisis since the Great Depression, many had hoped employers would be more forgiving.
Legal experts say that the practice probably does not violate discrimination laws because unemployment is not a protected status, like age or race. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently held a hearing, though, on whether discriminating against the jobless might be illegal because it disproportionately hurts older people and blacks.

The practice is common enough that New Jersey recently passed a law outlawing job ads that bar unemployed workers from applying. New York and Michigan are considering the idea, and similar legislation has been introduced in Congress…

Given that the average duration of unemployment today is nine months — a record high — limiting a search to the “recently employed,” much less the currently employed, disqualifies millions.

Now as Billy Bragg sings in “To Have and Have Not”:

The truth is, son, it’s a buyer’s market
They can afford to pick and choose

And I suppose many employers, faced with a glut of applicants for every new opening, have the luxury of assuming that if someone has been out of work for a long time, there must be something wrong with him or her. While it may not be as egregious as discriminating on the basis of race or gender, it’s still discrimination– and undoubtedly it ends up unfairly excluding qualified people whose joblessness may be due to any number of circumstances beyond their control.

Unfortunately the more employers discriminate against you because you’re out of work, the longer you remain unemployed and the less qualified you may become as your work skills deteriorate or become obsolete.

As The Times reports:

The best solution, economists say, would be to encourage job growth more broadly, which may initially involve poaching people from other companies but could eventually draw even the least desirable workers back into jobs. During the boom years of the late ’90s, the labor market was so tight that ex-convicts had relatively little trouble finding work.

But barring a booming economy, a lot of the long-term unemployed may simply be out of the job market for good.

Anyway I hope no one who places such an ad, or who approves of placing such an ad, ever has the nerve to say, “The problem with the unemployed is that they just don’t want to work.”