Long-term Unemployed—Is There a Place in Your Workspace?
Long-term unemployment and underemployment (LTU) is a problem for workers, the country, and businesses that need the skills, education, and experience of workers unable to crack the job market.
With aggressive technological and commercial development, experienced, skilled workers are needed to step into spaces that are novel and new. Because of the shortage of talent at that level, usually in fields involving science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM), the competition for these purple squirrels is stiff.
The rest of the job marketplace—what does it look like?
In August, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released a generally positive report. The unemployment rate remains at 4.9 percent, about half of what it was seven years ago, according to an article in The New York Times.
While this good news spins its way through headlines and political messaging, the rest of the report is quietly disturbing, containing facts that include:
- The long-term unemployed, those unwillingly jobless for more than 27 weeks, account for approximately 26 percent of the unemployment figure, or about two million people.
- While the unemployment rate has improved in recent years, the labor force participation rate in the United States currently stands at about 62 percent. This represents the portion of the nation’s labor force that is active.
- Another figure that did not change much in the latest BLS report is the more than six million people employed “part time for economic reasons.” This category refers to people who are involuntarily working part-time because they cannot find a full-time job, or their working hours are reduced.
- There are close to two million people who have looked for work in recent months, but been unable to find work in the last year. This group, called “discouraged workers,” consists of those who are not currently seeking work because they believe there are no jobs available for them.
In a study entitled, “Underemployed: The War on the American Worker, “released in June of this year, PayScale, Inc. looked at data from more than 900,000 workers between March 2014, and March, 2016.
An author on the report, Economist Katie Bardaro, notes, “There are many economic indicators followed by business and policy leaders to gauge the health of an economy. One notable such report is the monthly jobs report produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics…At PayScale, we believe another crucial indicator is underemployment – people who are either working at jobs that don’t leverage their education or seeking full-time work, but are working part-time.”
Some key points of the PayScale report include:
- Approximately 76 percent of those who consider themselves underemployed believe they are not able to use their education or training.
- More than 40 percent of MBA holders reported being underemployed. Of those, 90 percent report not using their experience or training in their current work.
- Men are less likely than women to report being underemployed.
In 2014, the White House announced an initiative for getting the long-term unemployed back to work that included:
- Grants to match LTU workers with in-demand jobs
- A call to action for American business to adopt best practices for recruiting and hiring the long-term unemployed and underemployed
- Revision of federal hiring processes to ensure long-term unemployed workers are not disadvantaged by job loss and gaps in their hiring history
Underemployed does not mean unemployable
Most people know someone looking for work. Oftentimes these candidates are experienced and educated but unable to catch the next wave back into the workforce. Many are working in positions that do not use their capabilities.
Sifted out by standardized resume review processes, these people represent diamonds in the rough for employers looking for skills, education, and capability.
Whether you are looking for specialized, experienced, or capable talent, consider the following tips to gain access to a valuable talent pool—especially if you are considering future proofing:
- The Wayback Machine: Expand your talent pool to include candidates with experience and skills gained more than seven years in the past. Many companies consider experience beyond a decade ago to be irrelevant. Oftentimes, the resumes of these individuals reveal adaptability and willingness to acquire new skills—a valuable capability.
- Hidden gold: The long-term unemployed often continue to acquire skills, certification, or technical capabilities to enhance their prospects of returning to their field of experience. When reviewing resumes, look for credentials and technical skills held by a candidate that are not required for the role they are seeking with your company. This is sometimes a hint that the applicant has significant exploitable skills that could fill other roles in your enterprise.
- Federal incentives: Government recruiting initiatives could be of “win-win” value to you and a potential long-term unemployed hire.
The portion of workers who are unemployed and underemployed in our country remains too high, even as the economy continues steady recovery. Reconsidering a broader definition of the “war for talent” may help you onboard the unique hires that your company seeks.