Unemployed But Not Unemployable: Hiring & Recruiting the Long-Term Unemployed






Do you have a family member or friend who has been unemployed for six months or longer? Or perhaps underemployed for the last few years?

It’s no secret that U.S. workers were hit hard by the Great Recession. One feature that has distinguished this recession from many past ones has been the persistence of long-term unemployment. Indeed, many workers who lost jobs during the recession have yet to find work, and many more have dropped out of the labor force completely. As of October 2014, 3 million Americans have been looking for work for six months or longer.[1] The long-term unemployed are much more likely to drop out of the workforce altogether and are also much less likely to find a job than their short-term unemployed counterparts.[2]

What makes long-term unemployment so frustrating is that traditional (and even logical) explanations for unemployment seem to have no bearing on the issue. As we move toward a skill-based economy, it would make sense that under-educated workers are having a more difficult time finding work. But research has found that long-term unemployment does not discriminate. Job-seekers are just as likely to be college educated as not, and even relevant work experience does not seem to help the long-term unemployed.[3]

In January 2014, the White House unveiled its plan that calls for employers to develop leading practices for recruiting and hiring the long-term unemployed, seeks to ensure that federal agencies give the long-term unemployed a fair shot, drives innovation around the issue through a Department of Labor grant competition, and enables workers to seek out training resources to increase their job-competitiveness.[4] The White House long-term unemployed initiative has received a positive reception from the business community, with over 300 companies signing the pledge. Many of these companies have already employed some leading practices with regard to recruiting the long-term unemployed, and others are sponsoring initiatives aimed at getting more Americans back to work.

In response to the White House call to action, Deloitte Consulting LLP collaborated with The Rockefeller Foundation to develop three handbooks aimed at helping 3 million Americans get back to work:

·        For Employers: A Guide to Recruiting and Hiring the Long-Term Unemployed: A Handbook for Employersthis guide enables employers to leverage industry leading practices aimed at the long-term unemployed and includes a case for change, the long-term unemployed maturity model, recommendations for recruiting, an implementation toolkit, vignettes, and case studies.

·        For Job Seekers: New Guide, New Destinations: Navigating Out of Long-Term Unemployment—this guide for job seekers includes recommendations for retooling a job search, including personal stories and lessons learned from employers and the previously long-term unemployed. Also included are an overview of available resources, a checklist for successfully finding a job and interactive exercises and activities.

·        For Community Leaders: Engage Your Community: A Local Guide to Addressing the Long-Term Unemployment Challengethis guide for local community leaders includes a four-step plan to help mobilize support in local communities, recommendations to develop a local strategy for addressing long-term unemployment, guidelines on identifying a local long-term unemployment ecosystem, sample action items for each ecosystem partner to mitigate long-term unemployment and talking points on how to advocate for the long-term unemployed.

I’ve been happy to support this initiative for four reasons. First, according to leading economists, the United States’ current level of long-term unemployment could cause lasting damage to the U.S. economy as a result of skills deterioration, lower labor force participation, and higher levels of structural unemployment (the unemployment resulting from industrial reorganization, typically due to technological change rather than fluctuations in supply or demand).

Second, I believe that the long-term unemployed are an overlooked labor pool. Despite decreasing unemployment, as of August 2014, there were still 4.8 million unfilled jobs in the United States.[5] It makes business sense for organizations to target the long-term unemployed with their recruiting strategies and the employer handbook will help them develop the business case for doing so.

Third, like hiring veterans and the disabled, it’s a good thing to help Americans find work who may not have been given a fair shot (good from both the feel good perspective and for your employment brand!).

Fourth, and much more personally, I also have family members and friends who are long-term unemployed or underemployed and I’m hopeful the job seeker handbook will help them.

What can you do today to help our nation’s long-term unemployed?

·        Download a copy of the handbooks here for yourself

·        Help us get the word out:

o   Share the link with your organization’s Talent Acquisition leader and recruiters and ask them to download A Guide to Recruiting and Hiring the Long-Term Unemployed: A Handbook for Employers

o   Share the link with your family and friends and encourage them to download the New Guide, New Destinations: Navigating Out of Long-Term Unemployment handbook

o   Share the link with your community leaders and encourage them to leverage the Engage Your Community: A Local Guide to Addressing the Long-Term Unemployment Challenge handbook

·        Tweet about the handbooks—please help us make these resources go viral! Here’s a shortened URL: bit.ly/1sIqdn7

·        Look for the upcoming, complimentary Bersin research report Unemployed but Not Unemployable: Recruiting & Hiring the Long-Term Unemployed on www.bersin.com

·        Join me for the upcoming, complimentary Bersin webinar: Unemployed Long Term, Not Unemployable:  What Companies Can Do To Help on Thursday, November 13th at 2:00 pm ET

[1] Source: “Employment Situation Summary,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 5, 2014, www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm.

[2] Source: “More Gloom for the Long-Term Unemployed, from Alan Krueger,” Wall Street Journal / Jon Hilsenrath, May 22, 2014, http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2014/05/22/more-gloom-for-the-long-term-unemployed-from-alan-krueger/?KEYWORDS=long+term+unemployment.

[3] Gretchen Gavett, “The American Way of Hiring Is Making Long-Term Unemployment Worse,” Harvard Business Review (Online) (13 December 2013) http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/12/the-american-way-of-hiring-is-making-long-term-unemployment-worse/

[5] Source: “Job Openings and Labor Turnover—August 2014,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, October 7, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/jolts.pdf

This publication contains general information only and Deloitte is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor.

Deloitte shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies on this publication.


Robin Erickson

Vice President, Talent Acquisition Research Leader / Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Robin leads talent acquisition, engagement, and retention research for Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP. Recognized as a thought leader in her areas of expertise, Robin offers more than 20 years of experience, including prior experience in talent strategies consulting and research for Deloitte’s Human Capital practice. Robin led Deloitte’s global Talent 2020 longitudinal survey series and her work has appeared in several issues of Deloitte Review and in Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends reports. She holds a doctoral degree in organizational communication and change, as well as a master’s in communication, from Northwestern University. Robin also has a master’s degree in theology from Northern Seminary and a bachelor of arts from the University of Chicago.

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