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The Long-Term Unemployed: We Need Their Skills and Experience Back on the Job

Laid-off Older Worker
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As the economy picks up steam and the job market strengthens, it may be easy to forget the serious problem of long-term unemployment. Three million Americans, 45 percent of whom are age 55+, have been actively looking for work for 27 weeks or longer without success. This rate of long-term unemployment —near record levels in our country — harms our economy and robs businesses of valuable workers.

There’s no evidence that the long-term unemployed are less skilled or capable than the recently unemployed. But the stigma of time out of the workforce keeps them from landing jobs. Aside from its considerable impact on under-utilized workers and their families, long-term unemployment has serious implications for our nation’s economy. It can lead to skills deterioration, an increase in structural unemployment and lower labor force participation.

A forthcoming report from AARP reveals the value 50+ workers represent to employers. For example, older workers are more engaged than any other cohort, which has a direct impact on business results. The report also examines the financial impact of hiring and retaining older workers. The study, “A Business Case for Workers Age 50+,” will be released later this year and will be available at

In addition, forthcoming research from the AARP Public Policy Institute takes a deeper look at how the long-term and short-term unemployed compare with respect to causes of unemployment, job-search intensity, reemployment success and more –

The long-term unemployed have critical skills and experience that can help boost our economy, if only they could break through the bias that keeps them sidelined. To help address this challenge, more than 300 leading companies have signed a White House pledge to actively recruit and hire the long-term unemployed. These companies –20 of which represent Fortune 50 companies – understand the benefits of recruiting individuals from this motivated and qualified talent pool.

Deloitte and The Rockefeller Foundation have developed a handbook for employers to help them understand the value proposition of hiring the long-term unemployed and identify ways to tap into this often-overlooked population. Not only do employers stand to gain competitive advantage from their skills and experience, but they also benefit from reductions in turnover, time to hire, cost-to-hire, and time to train. Deloitte and The Rockefeller Foundation also developed a handbook for job seekers, to help the long-term unemployed re-tool their job search.

Long-term unemployment is the defining employment challenge of our post-recession economy. It’s up to employers across the country to recognize that three million talented and motivated individuals are ready and willing to work hard and bring value to small and large businesses that seek a competitive advantage. False notions about the skill sets and experience of older workers hold us all back– it’s time we get past them. Let’s all commit to giving the long-term unemployed the chance they deserve to contribute to our economy and support themselves and their families. It’s not just the right thing to do – it’s the right business decision, too.

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