Can Anything Help The Long-Term Unemployed?

MIT researchers seek to crack code of long-term unemployment

Businessman sitting on concrete steps with head in hands
Getty Images
Going into the new year, the national unemployment rate stands at 7 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means the figure is the lowest it's been since 2008. But the welcoming of 2014 is hardly good news for one set of workers -- the long-term unemployed. For the first time since the financial crisis began half a decade ago, Congress has passed on extending emergency insurance benefits for those who have been out of work for up to 99 weeks. The program was left out of the bipartisan budget deal agreed to this month, as the Washington Post reported. The benefits are set to expire this weekend.

That means an estimated 1.3 million workers will be left in the cold, as the Post also reported. (In total, there are an estimated 4 million long-term unemployed workers in America, as AOL Jobs has reported.) Democratic party leaders say they intend to take up the issue again in January, but even if they push through a new extension there's guaranteed to be at least a delay in the delivery of checks.

Amid the political gridlock, a team of economists based out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology led by sociologist Ofer Sharone has announced plans to try to crack the long-term unemployment puzzle. The project, entitled the Institute for Career Transitions, is starting with 130 long-term unemployed, many of whom previously held white collar positions. All are 45 years and older, which means they also have to confront age discrimination.

"Skills aren't the obstacle for most of the long-term unemployed. Screening by employers is," Rand Ghayad, a labor economist affiliated with Northeastern University in Boston, and a member of Sharone's research team, told NorthJersey.com. Ghayad has independently pioneered research into the subject and told AOL Jobs that qualified workers out of work for more than six months are about three times less likely to be called back for an interview as compared to less qualified workers more recently out of work.

Cracking the code
"A big part of our research," Ghayad said, "will be identifying which variables matter most to finding work." He said the research team will be taking a particularly close look at the importance of networking and how close contacts can trump the stigma of long-term unemployment.

And so the MIT team has invited 63 career-coaches to work with the unemployed workers to see which strategies prove most helpful in trying to combat the bias in the labor market. The area of research is in fact a novel one, according to Sharone.

"The question is whether job-search strategies can make a meaningful difference against that discrimination. That's never been tested before," Sharone told the local news site.

Because the MIT project is only a month old it's too early to glean any major takeaways for the long-term unemployed trying to return to the workforce, Ghayad told AOL Jobs. But given that employers are overwhelmed by the number of applications they receive, Ghalad said they react by what he calls "free-riding on each other." In other words, employers automatically conclude something must be wrong with a worker if he or she has been out of work for more than six months, and so the worker is left in a permanent employment no man's land.

Some localities, including New York City, have responded by banning discrimination against the long-term unemployed. While the ban proscribes employers from explicitly asking for currently employed job applicants, it remains difficult to enforce, Ghayad notes.

"Workers have nothing to prove they're being discriminated against," he told AOL Jobs.

And so until more jobs are created and employers don't have the luxury to only pick from the front of their lines, it's integral for workers "not to wait," he said. "Take any job, volunteer, work part-time do something outside your profession," he warned. "Just make sure there's no gap on your resume."

What do you think should be done for the long-term unemployed? Share your comments below.

Lunchtime Live -- Can't Get A Job Because You're Unemployed?

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

8 Comments

Filter by:
Alden

There are lots of tem services that's where people can start. 95% of employers been going through temp services to find there workers and that's. How people can get there foot in there door and go from there

December 30 2013 at 1:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Alden's comment
Alden

Thanks that's a place I can start at the temp services.

December 30 2013 at 1:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sf

Fascinating that the author doesn't mention "create more jobs" until the *very last* 'graf. One would think that obvious fix would be the top suggestion. But of course looking at the topic of creating jobs might get Americans to search for answers to the questions, "Who creates jobs? Why do they do that? What would prompt job creators to want to hire more people?"

And heaven knows we can't have that! Because the answers would indict virtually every program pushed by the Democratic party. And virtually every "journalist."

You'll all figure it out eventually. But by then it'll be too late.

December 29 2013 at 11:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
daddyksinger

Too many people

December 29 2013 at 7:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wkb2texans

Thirty years of successful professional experience ... Masters degree ... Several certifications and professional organization memberships ... Resume professionally written, twice ... More than 400 job applications/resumes/cover letters submitted. ONE phone interview ... ONE face-to-face. Out of work for more than 2 years.

December 28 2013 at 5:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Michelle

Bottom line: If companies are allowed to discriminate against the following: (1) anyone over 40, (2) the homeless, (3) ex-offenders, etc. then o.k. - let them have the freedom to discriminate. But with that freedom, let them also have the responsibility to pay triple in taxes for what it costs to provide for the long-term uninsured. Yes, the long-term uninsured have a responsibility to attempt to find work, but face it - there will always be people unemployed for the long term, because companies simply won't hire them (but they will hire ILLEGALS). Therefore, let businesses be charged triple taxes to pay for long-term unemployment pensions and (2) congress/senate should consider having paid retirement programs for people to collect who are over 40. Bottom line: If the 'great' Congresspeople/Senators/Prezorat can't mandate laws forbidding discrimination for the above groups, then they need to pass laws requiring businesses to pay dearly for the privilege of discriminating against the above groups.

December 28 2013 at 12:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Michelle's comment
kingcockup

Triple which taxes? Uninsured against what? If you suggest a hammock for the plus-40 crowd, why not everyone? I was once an employer who did hire experienced workers. They really were no better nor worse than inexperienced youth when they did work however they already knew how to mine the unemployment and workers' compensation insurance funds. If we assume your premise that underground economy is preferred then laissez-faire is the way to go. Why penalize those who attempt to operate on the up-and-up?

December 29 2013 at 1:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Eddie M

I found that you had to have a job to get a job, it has taken me almost 4 years to get back near where I was when gm bankruptcy caused the downsizing of the tier zero company I was working for. I have had 6 face to face interviews with Chrysler and feel my age was an issue (now almost 62). I found that Daimler's Detroit Diesel does not care what age you are they want someone who can get the job done. I look forward in the next few months to moving from contract to direct.

December 28 2013 at 10:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Search Articles

Top Companies Hiring

Week of July 27 - Aug 3
View All

Featured Writers

Meet the team

Picks From the Web