How to Help the Long-Term Unemployed

By Daily Editorials

February 6, 2014 4 min read

President Obama announced Friday that nearly 300 companies had agreed to alter their hiring policies to prevent discrimination based upon how long a job applicant had been out of work. This list of participating companies consists of 21 of the 50 largest companies and includes names such as Wal-Mart, Apple, General Motors, Ford Motor, News Corp., McDonald's and eBay.

Obama's comments were meant to address the common employer's perception that people who have been out of work for a long period of time are less-desirable job candidates. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports nearly 4 million people have been out of work for more than six months, comprising 38 percent of all the unemployed.

It would seem wise for employers to do some due diligence to figure out whether an applicant who has been out of the job market for a while is a hard worker who has just been down on his luck or a slacker with subpar job skills. Also, a blanket policy to disregard all long-term unemployed job applicants would seem to be throwing the baby out with the bath water, costing the company some good potential employees. But each business has the right to set its hiring policies and, particularly where competition for jobs is especially fierce, being wary of hiring someone out of work for many, many months can hardly be said to be unreasonable.

In any case, even if employers do respond by hiring more people from the ranks of the long-term unemployed, this won't affect net employment; it will just substitute some job-seekers for others.

It is a sign of the president's arrogance that he sees fit to browbeat companies into adopting the hiring practices he deems worthy.

"We know what works, and we're going to go ahead and see what we can do without additional legislation to make some serious dents in the long-term unemployment problem," Mr. Obama remarked during his speech Friday. "We know what works for employers and employees alike."

The reality is that neither Mr. Obama nor anyone else knows what works in every situation for every employer and job-seeker.

President Obama has every right to use the bully pulpit to try to convince people of the merits of his personal ideas and favored policies. In fact, this is much preferable to imposing one-size-fits-all mandates on businesses through legislation. But he should focus, instead, on trying to find ways to remove the hurdles that prevent people from getting jobs in the first place.

Whether he is holding up the Keystone XL pipeline — and all the jobs that would come with it, refusing to intervene when the National Labor Relations Board blocked Boeing from moving a plant to South Carolina (a right-to-work state) or generally prolonging the economic malaise and preventing recovery by sapping private capital in favor of inefficient "stimulus" programs and subsidies to favored industries and businesses, Mr. Obama has proven that government micromanaging only makes the job situation worse.


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