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What You Need to Know: Our Push To Get Long-Term Unemployed Americans Back to Work

Who exactly are the long-term unemployed, what are the challenges they face to finding work, and what is President Obama doing to help put people back to work? Here are a few answers to important questions about long-term unemployment in America:

Thanks to the grit and resilience of American workers and business owners, our economy is getting stronger every day. Over the last 55 months, we've added 10.3 million jobs -- the longest streak of private-sector job growth on record -- and the number of job openings rose to its highest level in more than 13 years. We've put more people back to work than Japan, Europe, and every other advanced economy combined and the unemployment rate is falling at a faster pace than predicted

But one of the greatest challenges from the recession was the rise in long-term unemployment. The Great Recession left too many Americans out of a job through no fault of their own and many continue to search for work. Our strong economic growth is beginning to help.

Since December 2013, the number of long-term unemployed has fallen by 900,000, accounting for about 90 percent of the total drop in unemployment in the past 10 months.

But there is much more work to do, because  -- despite this progress -- the long-term unemployment rate is at twice its typical level. So who exactly are the long-term unemployed, what are the challenges they face in finding work, and what is President Obama doing to help put people back to work? Here are a few answers to important questions about long-term unemployment in America: 

1. How long do you actually have to be unemployed to be considered "long-term unemployed"?

Long-term unemployed Americans have typically been looking for work for 27 weeks or more.

2. Who are the people who are facing long-term unemployment?

Research has shown that that the long-term unemployed are in many ways quite similar to those who have been unemployed for shorter durations, except for the fact that their initial bad luck has become a terrible extended hardship, in some cases because prospective employers are hesitant to give them another chance. The chart below shows that the long-term unemployed are similar to the short-term unemployed in terms of educational attainment, and looking at other characteristics like gender, race, industry, and occupation tell a broadly similar story.

3. Why is it so hard for long-term unemployed Americans to find work compared to those who are only unemployed for the short-term?

The reality is that long-term unemployed Americans have to work much harder to secure the same opportunity to land a job. For example, the long-term unemployed are half as likely to receive interviews, even with identical resumes. And those who've been unemployed for seven months need to submit an average of 35 resumes to online job posting just to receive one interview, compared to just 10 resumes per interview for those who've only been unemployed for a month.

And perhaps the most important question of all: What is the President doing to help the long-term unemployed Americans get back to work?

In his State of the Union address this year, President Obama issued a three-part call to action – to employers, to communities, and to federal agencies -- to help these Americans find jobs. Here's a look at the progress we're making on these three initiatives:

  • EMPLOYERS: In January, the Obama administration engaged with America's leading businesses to develop best practices for hiring and recruiting the long-term unemployed. Over 80 of the nation's largest businesses have signed on to the Best Practices Pledge, including 20 members of the Fortune 50 and over 200 small- and medium-sized businesses. Many of these pledge-signers have already made meaningful changes in their recruiting practices. Check out a few examples:
    • Frontier adopts innovative video interviewing techniques. Frontier increased its hiring of long-term unemployed applicants by 17 percent after it began video interviewing, which helps to remove biases against the unemployed that may arise from relying on resumes alone.
    • Comcast looks beyond the resume for hiring. Comcast has also begun using a new hiring model that relies less on a resume, or recent work experience, and instead looks almost entirely at the behavioral attributes that will make someone successful in a role.  As a result, Comcast has new hire classes with 10 percent of hires coming from the long-term unemployed.
    • KPMG launches extensive outreach to recruit long-term unemployed. Although the national unemployment rate is 3.4 percent in the accounting industry, through their outreach and recruiting efforts, KPMG was able to hire approximately 300 individuals from the long-term unemployed population, nearly 10  percent of their total hires for fiscal year 2014.

Click here to see a full list of participating businesses and to learn more about how we're working with them to put people back to work. 

  • COMMUNITIES: In January, the President announced that the Department of Labor would expand successful public-private partnerships across the country that are helping educate, train, and provide job seekers with the access they need to fill jobs in demand by employers. Today, the Department of Labor is making $170 million in grants available for programs in 20 states and Puerto Rico to support hiring the long-term unemployed.  Here are a few of the winning partnerships:
    • City of Denver – IT and Advanced Manufacturing: Denver's program will focus on placing and training the unemployed in information technology and advanced manufacturing fields using a sector approach that convenes employers within these fields to co-design training programs. As an example employer partner, Lockheed Martin has committed to provide work-based learning opportunities, interview program participants for job openings, and hire qualified participants who complete the program.
    • Philadelphia District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund for In-Demand Jobs in Community Health.  District 1199C, a well-established job training organization in Philadelphia, will add to its healthcare training program by establishing a new Community Health Worker Registered Apprenticeship with local employers including Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Nationwide Healthcare Services, and several local nursing homes. The new apprenticeship program will help to standardize the skills needed for community health care workers across a number of employers, making it clearer what individuals need to do to get these jobs.
    • Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation – Matching Older Job Seekers to Jobs in Information Technology and Bioscience.  The project will focus on strong outreach to the unemployed as well as a central partnership with the AARP Foundation to reach out to individuals over 50 years of age through their BACK TO WORK 50+ initiative. AARP Foundation will offer co-branded marketing, a toll-free number, and a trained professional call center to reach older workers experiencing long-term unemployment or who have dropped out of the labor force. Individuals will be placed and retrained in information technology and bioscience fields working with employer partners like Assevero Security Consulting, Dunbar Cybersecurity, University of Maryland, and Johns Hopkins University.

Click here to see a full list of winning intiatives that are helping to fit the right worker with the right job.

  • FEDERAL AGENCIES: The President also directed federal agencies to give long-term unemployed jobseekers a fair shot for employment in government. Agencies have already taken steps to review their recruiting and hiring practices and today, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is issuing guidance to assist agencies in recruiting and ensuring that no one sees  undue obstacles during the hiring process. 

Click here to see OPM's "mythbuster" on federal hiring policies and here to learn more about what agencies are doing to update their employment guidance. 

As more jobs are created, it is critical that Americans with the skills, experience, and a desire to work have every opportunity to get back to work and maximize their full potential, and that our businesses find the new workers they need to compete and grow. That is why the President will continue to take action and work with America’s business community to ensure that every American feels the benefits of our growing economy in their own lives.