There's no denying the job market has seen some recovery since the worst of the recession. The official unemployment rate currently stands at 7.3 percent. That's down from 10.0 percent in October, 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Yet one of the hallmark problems of the financial crisis -- long-term unemployment -- persists. As the New York Times noted in a recent profile of one such long-term unemployed worker, the number of workers who have been out of work for more than six months is up by 213 percent since 2007. Still, the total number of workers out of a job for more than six months can be difficult to estimate, as many of the workers in this category remove themselves from the labor market. An estimate by the Boston Globe pegs the number of long-term unemployed at a total of 4.1 million total workers.
Relying on kindness of friends and family
Many of these workers can probably relate to the experience of 53-year old Jenner Barrington-Ward, profiled by the Times. Back in 2008, Barrington-Ward was working in an administrative role for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, making $50,000 a year. But then she got laid off and five years later, she's been forced to rely on friends and family for shelter after running through her savings. She's struggled to find full-time work. "I've been turned down from McDonald's because I was told I was too articulate," she told the New York Times.
In spite of having three decades of professional experience and a college degree, Barrington-Ward's resumes have gained very little traction. She's stopped counting how many she's sent out, "and the two times I got real interest from a prospective employer, the credit check ended it immediately," she added.
Long-term unemployment appears to be a self-fulling prophecy, with employers resistant to hire those out of work more than six months for open spots. The bias was displayed in a recent study conducted by Rand Ghayad, a Ph.D. candidate at Northeastern University. For his study, Ghayad sent out 4,800 dummy résumés to job postings.
Recently unemployed candidates with no relevant experience outperformed qualified candidates who also had been out of work for more than six months. The former group heard back 9 to 16 percent of the time, as compared to 1 to 3 percent for the long-term unemployed candidates who qualified.
In the face of such a landscape, private citizens have begun to address the issue of long-term unemployment on their own terms, launching projects to help this beleaguered class of workers get back on their feet. Among them:
1. Platform to Employment (P2E)
Program information: This five-week bootcamp focuses on both skills development and emotional support, as was profiled by NBC News. The programming is based on individualized needs. Attention is placed on boosting participants' digital presence on LinkedIn, among other networks. (The program received a lot of attention after being profiled in February on "6o Minutes.")
Location: The program is based in Bridgeport, Conn., and has expanded to Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Minneapolis and San Diego, among other locations.
Finding employment: P2E graduates land internships after their training with businesses that have made deals with the privately-funded program.
Find out more about the Platform to Employment here.
2. LA Fellows Program
Program Information: Founded in 2010, the program seeks out qualified middle-managers and pairs them to work with struggling local nonprofits. Candidates are selected by taking part in an interview process, and once accepted, are given seven weeks of training for computer and networking skills, as was profiled by Forbes.
Location: Los Angeles
Finding employment: After their training, program participants are matched up with local nonprofits, where they start with 100 hours of volunteer work. Seventy percent of the 230 participants have then gone on to land full-time jobs.
Find out more about the LA Fellows Program here.
3. Institute for Career Transitions
Program information: The program is being launched this month by MIT Professor Ofer Sharone. It will focus primarily on workers between the ages of 40 and 65 who also have college degrees. The program, which is being largely funded by MIT, is still in an experimental period, and so some of the participants will receive coaching over a three-month period, while others will not. The program will test different coaching strategies to see which have the greatest success in landing jobs for the participants, as was profiled by the Boston Globe.
Location: Cambridge, MA
Finding employment: The program is beginning with a class of 60 workers, though Sharone has said he will make more spots available to respond to the early interest.
Find out more about the Institute for Career Transitions here.
Program information: Led by volunteers, the program is free and open to any worker seeking help "reinvigorating their job search," as the program's website describes. The program is a forerunner in the growing movement of workers providing support systems for each other.
Location: The program began in River Edge, NJ, and now has 27 meeting locations throughout the Garden State. It has expanded into Boston and Washington, D.C. and is actively recruiting volunteer leaders across the country.
Finding employment: The program asks participants to attend weekly "accountability" meetings where members are expected to help each other with networking and job search tips in a pay-it-forward model.
Find out more about Neighbors-helping-Neighbors here.
5. Community Ventures
Program Information: The state-run programming in four Michigan cities including Flint and Detroit works with each hire for up to a year and in conjunction with local organizations to help with a range of needs, including clothing, transportation, daycare and financial literacy education.
Location: Throughout Michigan
Finding employment: Matches the long-term unemployed workers with in-state employers who participate in the program. The include such manufacturers as Lapeer Plating & Plastics, based out of Flint. In the first year of the program, Community Ventures helped 923 workers find jobs.
Find out more about Community Ventures here.