March 18, 2011

Reax to ‘Unemployed Need Not Apply’

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:06 am

As I noted on Tuesday in the tease, I had a few conversations this past weekend about my then-pending Pajamas Media column (now posted here; at BizzyBlog here) which led me to believe that it might generate “a bit of good old-fashioned rancor.”

Well, it did, with lots of strong support and passionate, usually thoughtful objection.

Here are some of the comments (PJM comments are mostly excerpts of longer comments found at the respective links, in order of appearance as of mid-morning today; obviously, merely listing them doesn’t constitute agreement or disagreement):

At the 1389 Blog — What our government has done to us (long-term unemployed), by deliberately destroying one sector of the economy after another, is truly evil.

(PJM) Your article does make sense, and thanks for the reminder that it is the government, not the employers, that is the source of the problem and to recognize that kind of spin.

(PJM) Excellently well put, and terribly depressing for anyone currently on the short end of the economic stick.

(PJM) Tom, you’ve provided a fair and accurate description of the realities of business. The longer this lackluster “recovery” stutters along, the more difficult it will be for the long-term un- and under-employed. And it’s difficult enough as things stand today.

(PJM) I disagree with the generalization that it is bad business to hire the long term unemployed. In my, opinion, it is the HR management theory “flavor of the month” that the long termed unemployed are bad for business.

(PJM) While I agree that government is primarily responsible, business must share the responsibility as well. When you reject someone out of hand, just because they were laid-off (not fired, to be fired is a disciplinary action taken by an employer against an employee for wrongdoing) because the company can no longer afford to keep them, you destroy that person’s humanity a little at a time.

(PJM) It is a crock. The ‘it’s just business’ method of downsizing has as many negative consequences as hiring someone that’s been out of work for an extended period (keeps the peter principle alive and well). It’s self fulfilling to exclude people from work because they’ve been out of work awhile. Anyone with any level of competence can quickly come up to speed and exceed their peers.

(PJM) Your column only adds fuel to the fire and shores up anyone who might have read stories here and there about the unemployed as being part of the new undesirables in the employment caste system of Oabama’s America. Repeat something often enough and it becomes acceptable. You did not do your readership any favors with this. You have injected fear and have more than likely demoralized many who are trying to put their lives back together. And the logic of the argument of some of these employers is mind boggling.

(PJM) You need not have given it your imprimatur.

(PJM) *sigh* The “unemployed need not apply story” has been true for approximately forever and three days, by my count.

(PJM) I’m totally unconvinced, and I don’t believe that there is any other explanation besides superficial thinking. (For the record, I’m not a liberal).

(PJM) thx sadistic Tom, hope YOU never have to sleep in your car after 20 years as a professional in IT with two university degrees…

(PJM) I know a business that made a killing out of hiring talented people with problems on their resumes, such as employment gaps. It was a brilliant decision.

(PJM) Employers resorting to not hiring long-term unemployed people who still have skills and experiences is discriminatory, unacceptable, and absolutely stupid.

(PJM) Let’s face a simple rule of thumb. A good worker is going to find a job within a few months, certainly in a year. So (true or not) most long term unemployed are going to be looked at as losers.

(PJM) I too have been unemployed for over 2 years. I have sent out over 6,800 resumes looking for a job. If I was less qualified I wouldn’t have as much trouble getting a job, or if I was more qualified I would not have trouble getting a job either. I am the “Middle Skilled” worker who used to make about 75-90K two years ago when I got laid off. … We need to make this illegal for companies to do.

(PJM) I agree with this guy 100%..after working at 1 place for 35 years they closed the doors in 2003.For the next year I drew the basic unemployment plus one whole extension. When I went back to work I had a very hard time getting into the work groove again. I know that my attitude about it had changed immensely.

(PJM) Tom, You have proven once again that those who can’t…Teach. The government is not responsible for the unemployment rate, the boys on wall street are.

(PJM) This article is obviously written by one who has never had their livelihood jerked out from under them.

(PJM) I do not see Not Hiring the Unemployed as a new phenomenon. There has always been reluctance by Corporate America to accept or hire applicants that have large gaps in their resume. Business moves so fast today; especially in the IT field that any applicant, current employee, or one who has just been laid off, must stay on the “Tools Treadmill” to remain current in their career path.

(dscott at BizzyBlog) The individual unlike the government has a choice of location. The solution to the over supply of labor in your geographic labor market is to move to one that doesn’t have that problem.

If I had free rein to revise I would probably add the bolded words to one sentence early in the column:

First, let’s grudgingly and reluctantly acknowledge that employers are mostly acting rationally.

I would also have preferred my brief title (“Unemployed Need Not Apply”) instead of the one PJM used, but it’s their site, and their decision.

I’m not happy that employers are doing this (there is no good reason why anyone would think I am). Based on their experience, businesses are doing what they believe they have to do to keep their job searches efficient and effective, thereby in many cases excluding the unemployed from consideration. It’s not a stretch to believe that many of them are not happy to have to do things this way.

But, as several commenters above indicated — as have several others with whom I have separately spoken, though many of them believe that employers are making the wrong call — the reality is what it is, and we shouldn’t be hiding from it.

The ultimate point is that if the Obama administration had embarked on policies designed to generate a legitimate recovery, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Employers would have to abandon their natural inclination not to hire the unemployed to meet increased customer demand for products and services in a quickly-growing economy.

We don’t have that, and it’s nobody’s fault but the creators and perpetuators of the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy.



  1. This is in answer to dscott at BizzyBlog:

    The individual unlike the government has a choice of location. The solution to the over supply of labor in your geographic labor market is to move to one that doesn’t have that problem.

    That’s all well and good if the “labor oversupply” is caused by local or regional dislocations or mismanagement. The Great Recession of 2008 (actually the Greater Depression of 2008-?) is nationwide. It is the fruit of bad economic policies that encourage offshoring and outsourcing, that have been pursued ever since Ronald Reagan left office. The mismanagement grew steadily and markedly worse as Pelosi and Reid took control of the House and Senate, and as Obama became president.

    Were I twenty years younger, I would have left the US, never to return, as soon as the 2008 election came down to McCain vs. Hillary vs. Obama. It is impractical for someone of limited means, various medical problems, and considerable family responsibilities to start over from scratch in another part of the world at the age of 57.

    Strictly speaking, I am no longer unemployed per se, but rather, severely underemployed. I am a longtime IT professional who is currently working as a part-time retail clerk at minimum wage. This is the ONLY job I have been offered in over three years of looking, and I took it immediately. I have been continuing to look for work in my own field, and have spent a lot of time and effort updating my skills – to no result.

    See: When small men cast long shadows… for my take on this back in December 2008.

    Comment by 1389AD — March 18, 2011 @ 11:19 am

  2. Interesting comment about “we to make this illegal for companies to do” and while I can sympathize being unemployed for a long period of time, it is the government’s meddling that got us into this situation and worse government regulations now enacted in the last two years starting with the Ledbetter Act that puts a sharp point to every employer that the fewer the employees they have, the fewer the problems and fewer expenses they will encounter.

    I predict a second round of a Microsoft recovery with increased part timers. Thanks a lot for making the workplace FAIR.

    btw – thanks for the honorable mention.

    Comment by dscott — March 18, 2011 @ 12:58 pm

  3. I hate generalizations and it is a shame if hiring managers categorically dismiss applications from long-term employed. However, I understand a favorable bias toward applicants that have demonstrated initiative & entrepreneurship sucess by working part-time jobs, returning to school, and/or experimenting with self-employment. Rational indeed!

    Comment by Michael — March 18, 2011 @ 2:11 pm

  4. Actually, #1, not so, the unemployment picture geographically is far from uniform. In fact what’s interesting here is that the AP as well has shunned the obvious in Metro area unemployment stats. Compare their interpretation

    Unemployment rises in nearly all metro areas WASHINGTON (AP) — Unemployment rose in nearly all of the 372 largest U.S. cities in January compared to the previous month, mostly because of seasonal changes such as the layoff of temporary retail employees hired for the holidays.

    The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate rose in 351 metro areas, fell in only 16, and was unchanged in 5. That’s worse than December, when the rate fell in 207 areas and increased in 122.

    Versus the RAW facts:

    1 Lincoln, NE Metropolitan Statistical Area 4.1
    2 Fargo, ND-MN Metropolitan Statistical Area 4.6
    3 Bismarck, ND Metropolitan Statistical Area 4.8
    4 Ames, IA Metropolitan Statistical Area 4.9
    4 Iowa City, IA Metropolitan Statistical Area 4.9
    6 Grand Forks, ND-MN Metropolitan Statistical Area 5.0
    6 Midland, TX Metropolitan Statistical Area 5.0

    The obfuscation is clear, they don’t want you to know that North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska in general are doing well. Why is that? Because then they would have to be honest about domestic energy production being a job creator and not Green Energy!!!! That does not fit the narrative. Pack your bags and stop being unemployed is my message, advice that I myself followed but not to the areas listed. You go to where your skill set is needed, not whine that no one will give you a job.

    The article is correct the job market has worsen from December to January. The negative trend is significant in that the number of areas BELOW 5% have dropped from about 13 to 5! THAT’S WHAT THEY LEFT OUT! Recovery? What Recovery?

    Comment by dscott — March 18, 2011 @ 6:34 pm

  5. The bashing of business just because they are being practical annoys the hell out of me. It’s like the people who get upset when a company downsizes, as if the company now downsizing and going out of business helps anybody. Those comments are typically faux righteous indignation. It’s basically attacking the messenger and then trying to sic the government (who screwed up everything to begin with) on them simply for being realistic. It pisses me off!

    #2, That illegal comment you mention is interesting, also stupid. That’s a great idea, yeah, let’s just set up another massive bureaucracy staffed with government drones with little to no knowledge of the private sector to micromanage which of the chronic unemployed should get hired or not and in what amount. These bureaucrats can’t make money off a brothel, now someone thinks them capable of making rational, intelligent and wise decisions in regards to hiring the unemployed? Sickening.

    #3, It may be a generalization, but it’s a generalization that is right the vast majority of the time. While I’m sure there are some hard luck cases and bad luck among the long-term unemployed, it’s a small minority. BTW, I’m not sure if your comment is meant to be sarcastic or not and I can’t say I totally get your meaning. Also, hiring managers don’t “categorically” dismiss the unemployed, UNLESS you’re in a crappy situation like right now. And even then I’m sure there are expectations. Part-time employment, being in school (why would you file for a full time job if you’re returning to school anyway?) and self-employment don’t count as chronic unemployment. So if you’re insinuation is that managers don’t hire people like that and thus your seemingly ?mocking? “Rational, indeed” comment, then you’re wrong. Please correct me if I misinterpreted your intent.

    And let’s not forget then even in the best of economic situations the oh so compassionate feds have made hiring and employing people a pain in the ass.

    Comment by zf — March 18, 2011 @ 9:11 pm

  6. BTW, the indignant can fire up as many unverifiable personal anecdotes as they want, but making vague statements about what you think you see and what your limited personal “experience” tells you is not hard evidence and does not ‘rebut’ the “generalization.”

    And if push came to shove, and these same people were in charge of hiring, I’d be willing to bet large amounts of money they would make the same decision to not hire the unemployed. (Unless they really think skills don’t erode if you don’t use them. And no, “practicing” them at home is not equivalent to using them under real world situations.)

    Comment by zf — March 18, 2011 @ 10:01 pm

  7. Let me boil it down more simply: (sorry for overposting) in order for the anti-business sorts to be right, they have to prove the very fantastical notion that an employer is just as likely to get a reliable, good employee out of a pool of long term unemployed prospects than out of a pool of very briefly unemployed prospects. Since you can’t really do that (because it flies in the face of basic logic ((and flimsy anecdotes aren’t good enough “counter- evidence”)) that you can’t vilify business for not hiring the unemployed *in a period of economic weakness.* End of story. Why this is even controversial is beyond me, we are not even talking about normal circumstances (which we are very, very far from) where one *could* make a somewhat more valid claim that it’s unfair.

    Comment by zf — March 19, 2011 @ 12:03 am

  8. See comments here: Blogmocracy: Why employers avoid hiring the long-term unemployed

    Comment by 1389AD — March 20, 2011 @ 2:02 pm

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