There's still an undeniable stigma to the word "unemployed." Even in this recession-addled era, it still conjures up images of greasy dudes sitting in overstuffed easy chairs, letting their stubble grow and their bellies sag as the working world bustles along indifferently. And while the private sector may be recovering, actually getting a job is still no easy task, and for many unemployment is less an inconvenience than a fact of living. They don't deserve to be stigmatized, and new research, which suggests that the long-term unemployed are just as productive on the job as those with more consistent work histories, proves it.
San Francisco's Evolv Inc. gathered data from almost 20,000 employees, Bloomberg News reported, and found "no statistically significant difference" in the job performances of call center workers who hadn't held a full-time job for at least five years before getting hired, and everyone else.
Evolv measured four different aspects of job performance: the average time for an employee to complete a transaction, customer satisfaction ratings, supervisor evaluations, and the percentage of a given workday actually spent at a desk. In the context of those areas, previously long-term unemployed workers were found to be no worse at their jobs.
"The concern is that the long-term unemployed may remain on the sidelines, ultimately dropping out of the workforce," Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in a speech about Americans struggling to find work. "But the data suggest that the long-term unemployed look basically the same as other unemployed people in terms of the occupations, educational attainment, and other characteristics."
Evolv's research goes beyond that, though, and demonstrates that the long-term unemployed can make strong job candidates even compared to the consistently employed. Nevertheless, another study made it clear that the stigma of unemployment still exists, and is hurting otherwise qualified applicants.
"Back when there were enough jobs to go around, more of the people who were out of work were out due to their motivation or their lack of skills to be hired," John Fugazzie, who founded the job search support group Neighbors Helping Neighbors, told AOL Jobs by email. "This is an old stereotype which many have still clung to, and is highly unfair. The research clearly is speaking to the long-term unemployed of today, who are higher-educated and very capable of working."
An experiment conducted by researchers at the University of Toronto, the University of Chicago, and McGill University found participants submitting thousands of fake resumes to about 3,000 jobs. The study found that callbacks for those with eight months of unemployment were about 45 percent lower than those with only one month's downtime between jobs.
Vincent Ramsey, a 56-year-old who lost his security job at Villanova University in 2012, knows a thing or two about that. He told Bloomberg that since then he's applied for about 30 positions a week.
"With all the positive traits that I have, somebody's still finding fault with me," he said. Ramsey has applied mainly in areas where he already has experience, but has yet to find a solid lead. "I don't understand it. Wherever you put me at any job, I connect with people. I've done this successfully everywhere."
Obama summed up the Catch-22 faced by people like Ramsey last January, when he said, "The longer you're employed, the more unemployable you may seem. They just need a chance."
Walmart, Ford, and more than 300 other companies have signed a White House pledge to recruit out-of-work job-seekers, but that--along with the findings from Evolv--are just the beginning of the larger efforts needed to turn around this country's unemployment situation.
"Attitudes have to be changed, and those with improper attitudes do not want to read research," said Fugazzie. "It will take a lot of work to bring this issue to the forefront."
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