Monday, June 28, 2010

These days, you need a job to get a job

Although some recruiters pooh-poohed it, others saw it as being on point: A CNN Money story this month that pulled back the curtain on the dirty little secret that it takes a job to get a job. Or, as the headline stated, "Looking for work? Unemployed need not apply."

While it may not be a new story, it deserves a periodic revisit so we can get upset about it all over again.

Remember that the Great Recession that began in December 2007 has created a huge class of long-term unemployed -- workers who have been jobless for six months or more. In May, the latest month with available statistics, their number stood at 6.8 million, or about 46 percent of the country's 15 million unemployed, according to the government. (The numbers for June will be released at 8:30 a.m. Friday.)

To Jesse Rothstein, chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, these jobless workers were "unlucky enough to lose jobs in 2008 or 2009 when there weren't any other jobs to be had."

His comment came during a program hosted by the Economic Policy Institute to draw attention to the extension to unemployment insurance due to run out this month. You can see Rothstein's "unlucky" remark here, at about 2:10 into the video:

He also made another interesting point, at about 2:20: that today's long-term unemployed worker is different from his/her predecessor.

"Ordinarily, they look like a very disadvantaged group with very low education, other measures, other things that are indicative of disadvantage," he said. "Right now, that's much less true.

"You see relatively many college-educated people who are long-term unemployed. It's not so much that these are people who are not qualified for jobs, it's that there aren't any jobs to hire them."
Indeed, the statistics from May show that 4.7 percent of the civilian labor force that was unemployed, or about 2.1 million people, held a bachelor's degree or higher. During the 2001 recession, that same group had an unemployment rate of just 2.1 percent in May and numbered 771,000.

Despite that measure of being qualified, employers still aren't willing to take a chance, says one recruiter, because if the jobless were really good at what they did, they'd be collecting a paycheck, not unemployment benefits. Jeez.

UPDATE: The government reported Friday that the number of long-term unemployed was unchanged in June at 6.8 million. The unemployment rate declined slightly for the month to 9.5 percent, and the number of unemployed overall dropped a bit to 14.6 million.

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