There is reason to believe that the long-term unemployed face discrimination when they try to get a job. Now some Swedish economists have tried to quantify exactly what that penalty looks like. They found that for someone applying for a medium or low-skill job after being jobless for more than nine months, interview requests drop by 20 percent, which is about the same as losing four years of work experience from their resumes. While the research was conducted in Sweden, the authors argue that they likely apply to the U.S., which has a somewhat similar job market.
This pattern doesn’t hold true for those who have only been unemployed for six months or less, which had no impact on whether or not they got a call for an interview. In fact, short-term unemployment seemed to be a boon for those seeking low-skill jobs, possibly because they could start immediately. The problem also didn’t impact those who were looking for jobs that require a college degree.
Once someone who is unemployed for a long period of time finds a job, however, their attractiveness should bounce back. Resumes with a year-long period of unemployment in the past got the same response as those who hadn’t been out of work.
Other research backs up the evidence of a penalty for those who are out of work for long periods of time. Northeastern University graduate student Rand Ghayad found that being out of work for more than six months had a huge impact on whether someone could get a call for an interview. Those who had been out of work for more than six months but had experience still got called back less often that those who were currently employed but lacked experience.
The National Employment Law Project has also collected the individual stories of unemployed workers who say they were told by prospective employers that they wouldn’t be considered for a job opening because they were unemployed, including those who were told it was because they had been unemployed for a specific period of time.
These problems are facing a large number of Americans. The long-term unemployed account for 37 percent of all who are out of work, coming to 4.2 million people total.
Meanwhile, many of these workers aren’t even receiving unemployment benefits as they wait to get back into the workforce. Those who exhaust state-level benefits thanks to being out of work longer than 26 weeks are seeing the federal support they usually rely on slashed thanks to sequestration. Some states may stop participating in the extended program altogether, as North Carolina already has. Those that will keep getting benefits will see the checks reduced by nearly 15 percent, with some states cutting them even more.