WASHINGTON Jan 31 President Barack Obama will
meet on Friday with a group of chief executive officers who have
agreed to make sure their companies do not rule out hiring
people just because their resumes show they have been out of
work for a while.
More than 300 companies have agreed to a one-page list of
"best practices" for recruiting and hiring people from the ranks
of the long-term unemployed - a group that has struggled to find
work in spite of an otherwise improved economy.
"It's saying that those who are long-term unemployed should
get a fair shot," said Gene Sperling, Obama's top economic
The U.S. jobless rate has remained stubbornly high at 6.7
percent, but Sperling told reporters the rate would be closer to
5 percent were it not for the roadblocks to finding work for
those unemployed for six months or more.
"We are trying to address what we feel is the heart of that
negative cycle, which is the potential stigmatization of people
merely for the sake that they are long-term unemployed," said
Sperling, director of the National Economic Council.
The meeting is part of Obama's pledge to do what he can on
the economy despite a reluctance by Republicans in Congress to
agree with other parts of his plan.
Obama has tried, but so far failed, to convince Congress to
extend jobless benefits for people who have been unsuccessfully
seeking work for more than six months.
Benefits for 1.6 million Americans have expired since the
end of 2013, numbers that could swell to 4.9 million people by
the end of 2014 unless legislation is passed.
A study published this year by researchers from the
University of Toronto, McGill University and the University of
Chicago helped convince the White House to act.
The researchers used 12,000 fictitious resumes to respond to
real job openings in 100 cities. Some of the invented candidates
had been "unemployed" for only a short period, while others had
been out of work for months - but their work experience,
education and demographics were otherwise identical.
Applicants who had been out of work for eight months had 45
percent fewer callbacks from employers: "fairly decisive
evidence that merely the status of being long-term unemployed
serves as a disadvantage," Sperling said.
A second study from the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology found that someone unemployed for one month will get
one interview on average for every 10 job applications, while
someone out of work for seven months has to send 35 resumes to
get just one interview.
"It's very demoralizing to send out hundreds of resumes and
not get an interview," Sperling said.
Sperling began talking to business leaders in May about the
issues and he and Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett began
approaching businesses directly in the fall about committing to
review screens used to sort resumes, and other hiring practices
that shut out the long-term unemployed.
More than 80 of the largest U.S. businesses signed on,
including companies such as Apple Inc, Wal-Mart Stores
Inc, Ford Motor Co, General Motors Co,
Proctor & Gamble Co, JPMorgan Chase & Co and
Even media mogul Rupert Murdoch signed up his companies,
News Corp and Twenty-First Century Fox Inc,
after Sperling pitched him the concept.
"He responded directly by email to say he thought this was a
strong idea," Sperling said.
Obama on Friday will issue a presidential memorandum to
ensure the federal government adopts the same "best practices"
in its recruitment
He also will announce $150 million in grants for
public-private programs that help match the long-term unemployed
with local employers.
Will the pledges work? The White House said it did not have
a projection of how many people from the ranks of the
unemployment might be able to land an interview because of the
"I can't give you an exact number," Sperling said.
"But these are companies that employ millions and millions
and millions of people, and are going to be hiring more people,
and I think this is going to have a significant impact."