ABC: Long-term unemployed “the new Irish”

posted at 10:58 am on March 4, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Earlier today, I noted that the level of civilian participation in the workforce has reached a generational low of 64.2% the last two months, the lowest seen since March 1984.  ABC’s look at the job market suggests that it will be a long while before that rate rises significantly.  Hearkening back to an era of bigotry, Alan Farnham says the long-term unemployed have become “the new Irish“:

In the bad old days of the 1800s, when it was legal for employers to discriminate against anyone they pleased, job postings used to say things like: “No Irish Need Apply.” Now the unemployed, it seems, have become the new Irish: In advertisement after advertisement, employers come right out and tell them they’re not wanted.

Right now CareerBuilder, one of the biggest job sites on the web, has a posting for an entry-level engineer. The candidate, it says, will perform structural analysis of telecommunications cell towers. A civil engineering degree is required, an undergrad GPA of at least 3.4 as is knowledge of AutoCAD. Some travel is required.

Oh, and there’s one other thing: “No layoff candidates.” …

Look anywhere that jobs are posted and you’ll see more examples. This discrimination isn’t subtle. It’s not covert. It’s right out in the open, stated in the listings: A phone manufacturer looking to fill a marketing job stipulates “No unemployed candidates will be considered at all.” An electronics firm looking for an engineer says it will “Not consider/review anyone NOT currently employed regardless of the reason.” A Craigslist posting for an assistant restaurant manager in New Jersey says all applicants “Must be currently employed.”

So prevalent is this new form of discrimination that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in February held hearings on it. The EEOC press release announcing them bore the catchy title “Out of Work? Out of Luck.”

The analogy is far from perfect, mainly because Farnham confuses discrimination based on ethnicity and the normal discernment of employers based on experience and job history.  As a hiring manager for 15 years, I can attest that under normal conditions, the long-term unemployed are higher risks for problems in employment and for long-term performance.  That is one of many factors that came into play when looking for new hires, but at both companies for which I ran call centers, it was considered an important factor.  When exceptions were made, we usually had trouble with performance as a result.

That period of time differs from the current work environment in a couple of key ways that impact on this trend.  During my years as a hiring manager, unemployment never got above 7.8%, and most of that period stayed in the 5% range.  Under those conditions, finding stable employment histories for entry-level applicants was difficult, and we had to take more risks to keep staffing at appropriate levels.  Indeed, we also had to significantly raise entry-level pay several times over the last ten years in which I worked in that field just to get applicants in the door.

That meant that applicants with spotty work histories were more suspect, since employment was easily found in that period.  However, it also means that employers now have a much wider applicant base and can afford to be more selective.  With so many new workers entering into the economy and not enough jobs to go around, it has become a buyer’s market, which means that employers don’t need to take risks in staffing decisions.  While employment track records may be less indicative over the last three years of high unemployment, it’s still an issue that raises red flags about commitment and performance.

Eventually, the economy will recover enough to drive the available labor base down to a level where employers will have to take risks again, and the long-term unemployed will find opportunities at that point.  Fortunately for them, they can stop being risks in that area far easier than the Irish could stop being Irish, blacks could stop being black, or women could stop being women.


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If I could get an entry-level job somewhere, I would. But it’s a Catch-22 of sorts – nobody wants to hire someone who is grossly overqualified because they know that person will quit as soon as something better comes along.

rockmom on March 4, 2011 at 11:50 AM

Exactly. All the cries of “get a job-any job” are clearly made by those with exactly zero experience in the current market. To be fair, I think today’s job scene is unlike anything that has happened in anyone’s lifetime. But trying to get past an HR screen when you’re 40 and over, with an advanced degree, and trying to break into a new field seems to be a Sisyphean effort. I got screened out for, among other things, firms that would only hire locally. Why not just say no relocation provided?

After nearly a year of unemployment I went the bootstrap route and started my own firm. It’s been a challenge I’ve always wanted, though hardly the position I would have chosen to start from. But I’ll never view an unemployed person in the same way again.

TexasDan on March 4, 2011 at 3:04 PM

BTW, do the Scots get any consideration for “Reps”? If so, that would be another score for me.

JimP on March 4, 2011 at 2:40 PM

Too much Norse blood in the mix. I think we’re the ones who’d be forced to pay.

TexasDan on March 4, 2011 at 3:08 PM

No idea, why I went blue.

betsyz on March 4, 2011 at 3:14 PM

Silly company’s.

SO, with a large unemployment pool – companys are choosing to steal other workers, within a smaller market, which does not grow anything.

Also – what if I quit a job and dont take unemployment. According to the federal gov – I am not “unemployed”, therefore – would I be allowed to apply for a “no layoff/unemployed allowed?”

And the comparison to Irish Need Not Apply is ridiculous, as Ed pointed out.

I have a 1927 “Irish Need Not Apply” sign from an upper east side restaurant in NYC. I use it as a proud motivator as to where “my people came from” – and more imprtantly – how we flourished due to hard work.

Odie1941 on March 4, 2011 at 3:25 PM

Again, on job fairs: I don’t know what the deal is. Hotels, usually rent out the space, the news media does all of the promoting of this “event”, and then businesses feel they must participate, like a good Samaritan. It would be interesting to find out in anyone has ever gained employment through a “job fair”.

betsyz on March 4, 2011 at 3:28 PM

“Too much Norse blood in the mix. I think we’re the ones who’d be forced to pay.
TexasDan on March 4, 2011 at 3:08 PM”

OK, Dan, but you score for being a Southerner. And surely you have some Indian blood in you like so many of ‘us Sothreners’. And anyway, Vikings are a much misunderstood, and thereby discriminated against, ethnic group. What about all that “berserking” they did and passed on. It’s not Norsemen’s fault they are anger disabled. It’s in our genes.

JimP on March 4, 2011 at 3:30 PM

JimP on March 4, 2011 at 3:30 PM

I don’t know what you just said, but am of Viking descent. Where do I go to formulate my law suit?///

betsyz on March 4, 2011 at 3:34 PM

JimP on March 4, 2011 at 3:30 PM

Scottish and Southern. That’s bi-winning.

TexasDan on March 4, 2011 at 3:52 PM

Minor point. English is already one of India’s official languages, so those Indians are most likely being trained to improve their English, which they already speak.

Christien on March 4, 2011 at 2:19 PM

Minor point – why should the US taxpayers pay even a dime to train any foreigner to take American jobs?

Rebar on March 4, 2011 at 3:57 PM

The careerbuilder link posted above appears to have been scrubbed of the layoff verbage.

Cell tower design was one of the lateral career moves I tried to make with no success. Also, it looks like a headhunter posting rather than directly from a company HR rep. I wonder if placement agencies are just buried with the unemployed candidates and are attempting to pre-screen, and are less shy about saying so up-front.

TexasDan on March 4, 2011 at 3:58 PM

All kidding aside. I want to thank everyone for posting there real life stories. It helps me to read them. All I can add is “ditto”. I am going through the same kind of experiences and it helps knowing I am not alone. I crack wise to keep my spirits up, but it gets really hard to continue. So thanks and good luck to everyone.

JimP on March 4, 2011 at 4:04 PM

JimP on March 4, 2011 at 4:04 PM

It’s hard. After months and months of applying for jobs that I thought suited me, I finally went a different route and tried for the “services” types of employment. Finally got an interview for hotel-maid. Didn’t get that job, either. Although, I am honest, very hard-working, loyal, on time, never, ever on the cell-phone, no tats, etc. I am at a loss.

betsyz on March 4, 2011 at 4:28 PM

Whoever said “just go work fast food for the time being” — I applied to fast food, supermarkets, drug stores…you name it. No call backs from any of those places. And on most of them I didn’t include the fact that I’m graduating in May with a M.Ed. in English Education. When I was laid off it was a double whammy — not only was I out of a job, but I was pregnant with my son, so I had to wait until he was born because no one was going to hire someone who was going to leave shortly after.

I recently interviewed for a job as an English teacher working in an alternative education program with teenagers (kids who are seriously in danger of dropping out of school), so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I get a call back in the positive. Because of funding, the position might not last past June, but at least it’ll be something for now.

ScoopPC11 on March 4, 2011 at 4:30 PM

ScoopPC11 on March 4, 2011 at 4:30 PM

I know. However keeps popping up about, well, just get a job slinging burgers. There just aren’t these fast food openings, at all. Then, you try for “restaurant help”…at least two years experience, whether it be sous-chef or dishwasher. Not making this up.

betsyz on March 4, 2011 at 4:40 PM

ScoopPC11 on March 4, 2011 at 4:30 PM

I’d go take my broken 46 year old body to dig ditches – but who will hire me over a young illegal who will take half minimum wage? Same with all the “fall back” jobs, where do you think the 20 million illegals are doing here – that’s right, those jobs.

Rebar on March 4, 2011 at 4:44 PM

Then, you try for “restaurant help”…at least two years recent experience, whether it be sous-chef or dishwasher. Not making this up.

betsyz on March 4, 2011 at 4:40 PM

I have 5 years restaurant experience but it was 15 years ago and nobody takes a second look.

darwin-t on March 4, 2011 at 4:51 PM

Great idea. I can count at least three lineages that ‘entitle’ me to reparations. I bet most of us can score mulitiple hits for reparations.

JimP on March 4, 2011 at 2:40 PM

You’ll win, but only if you pay reparations to yourself.

James on March 4, 2011 at 4:54 PM

Rebar on March 4, 2011 at 4:44 PM

I’m just overjoyed when the job posting doesn’t say “Bilingual required”.

betsyz on March 4, 2011 at 4:55 PM

darwin-t on March 4, 2011 at 4:51 PM

Now that’s harsh. And very, very discouraging. As a person, who kept a spotless house, raised two children, extremely good cook, did countless charity events, involving “kitchen” work, and then to learn from you that you are not “recent” enough with all of your qualifications, well, what does one do?

betsyz on March 4, 2011 at 5:00 PM

Again, on job fairs: I don’t know what the deal is. Hotels, usually rent out the space, the news media does all of the promoting of this “event”, and then businesses feel they must participate, like a good Samaritan. It would be interesting to find out in anyone has ever gained employment through a “job fair”.

betsyz on March 4, 2011 at 3:28 PM

My husband has been offered three contingent offers of employment through employers he’s met at job fairs – and he’s had about 10 interviews. We’re waiting for the government to okay all three (it’s defense contracting work), but in each case, the company wants him. So if he gets approved, and there’s no reason why he wouldn’t, he’d be gaining employment through a job fair.

I do know that my husband comes home after the fairs, looks up everybody on Linkedin, e-mails them a soft copy of his resume and a quick follow-up note. It could be that it really depends on the industry – Tim is military, getting out in June, and we live in the Baltimore/DC area. Jobs in his field (signals analysis) and related fields are available, provided your clearance is in good standing. I know it differs in other parts of the country.

And to Christien, who brought it up on the other page: I’m a SAHM, have been for 6 years. I’m considered unemployed, but I do volunteer in town, at church, and at school, all of which would fill up space on a resume. It’s not much, but every little bit helps – and I know SAHPs who have turned what they do at home into experience to get hired (organizational skills, budgeting, childcare experience).

Anna on March 4, 2011 at 5:19 PM

I don’t know what’s worse: Never getting a call back or driving over 20 miles for a “temporary data-entry” clerk, arriving, sitting for over an hour in the foyer, along with 25 other applicants, plus another 30 or so, streaming out the door. And then your shot: 30 second interview. One person that I talked to was actually out of state and drove all night.

betsyz on March 4, 2011 at 5:23 PM

Anna on March 4, 2011 at 5:19 PM

That’s great news for your husband. I do see a lot of Army/Navy recruitment stands at these affairs, but you’re speaking about government contract work. I don’t know. I can only speak for myself, and quite a few others, who came back with the same raw, blank-stare “interviews”…”Just go to our Website.”

betsyz on March 4, 2011 at 5:48 PM

betsyz on March 4, 2011 at 4:28 PM

I’m saying an extra prayer for you. I hope it will be answered soon.

JimP on March 4, 2011 at 6:38 PM

JimP on March 4, 2011 at 6:38 PM

Thank you very much. I will pray for you, also. The only bright spot is that there are so many good souls at this site.

betsyz on March 4, 2011 at 6:45 PM

Eventually, the economy will recover enough to drive the available labor base down to a level where employers will have to take risks again, and the long-term unemployed will find opportunities at that point.

Really? REALLY? How optimistic of you. I suggest that in fact this is highly unlikely. The USA has shipped its manufacturing offshore and is automating via software most office jobs. So what, exactly, is going to cause the economy to recover? The economy will not recover until there are more jobs available and this will not happen. This is not a typical recession. This is a “sorry we have shipped your job overseas and/or automated it and we don’t ever need you to return” recession.

SunSword on March 4, 2011 at 6:49 PM

betsyz on March 4, 2011 at 5:48 PM

Thank you. I figured there might be some difference. I do hope you have better luck in the future. It’s got to be frustrating, and what a waste of everybody’s time, at the job fairs you’ve been going to – it makes me feel bad, to know that my husband is having such good luck, when others obviously are not.

Anna on March 4, 2011 at 6:59 PM

SunSword on March 4, 2011 at 6:49 PM

You are correct, unfortunately. The jobs are gone and will not come back. And, there is no new, innovative start-up enterprise that’s going to refresh anything. Everything stinks like the San Francisco (green energy!!!!) sewers.

betsyz on March 4, 2011 at 7:02 PM

I sound sour. I go back and forth on this. I do love learning that many people are finding work, like Anna’s husband, above. That is exceptionally fine news. I want my great nation back, where people, who are willing to work, have work, and feel good about earning a paycheck.

betsyz on March 4, 2011 at 7:08 PM

They won’t hire you if you don’t have a job and they won’t hire you if you have a bad credit rating. It’s almost as if institutional employers want an underclass.

Screw ‘em. Take your skills and start a small business.

rokemronnie on March 4, 2011 at 7:20 PM

There are hundreds of thousands of jobs waiting to be filled, and millions more that would trickle down, bringing us back to prosperity if we could just access our bountiful oil/gas/coal/shale resources.

Instead we’re stuck with heartbreaking stories of dead end streets. It’s depressing and maddening at the same time. If I had one recommendation it would be to get on the horn with your reps in the House and Senate and demand action on energy, and I don’t mean windmills and solar panels.

Buy Danish on March 4, 2011 at 7:27 PM

I’d go take my broken 46 year old body to dig ditches – but who will hire me over a young illegal who will take half minimum wage? Same with all the “fall back” jobs, where do you think the 20 million illegals are doing here – that’s right, those jobs.

Rebar on March 4, 2011 at 4:44 PM

Have you actually stood outside your local Home Depot and tried to find out whether you have what it takes to be hired?

unclesmrgol on March 4, 2011 at 8:52 PM

To those who are criticizing my former posts, where I suggested that people get any job, even flipping burgers…

You seem to ignore the fact that I also suggested volunteer work (I gave an example of an unemployed accountant doing books for a local homeless shelter).

An employer wants to see that you want to work. Gaps look bad. Crappy jobs and volunteer work looks much better than no work at all. Clean some cages for the SPCA, and then get a letter of recommendation from the boss.

Some have suggested a brilliant alternative: starting your own business. Just work at it – it just might make you rich, and if it doesn’t, it’s still valuable experience that looks good on a resume.

Johnny 100 Pesos on March 4, 2011 at 9:34 PM

Being fired in my mid-40′s and also being Irish, I guess, would double qualify me for responding to this thread. I was a middle-level manager for an insurance company and, I suppose I could get some satisfaction that the company who fired me also subsequently went down the tubes and one of the companies which subsequently rejected my application was the infamous AIG. (Just think of the humiliation of being an ex- AIG executive).

Based on personal experience, it is a mistake to take a job below your capacity (unless you are so desperate you need do so to simply survive). Fortunately my wife made a great salary and I could avoid this further humiliation. It does not look too good on your resume to show a number of years as a middle manager, followed by, for example, a few years picking cabbages in California.

After two years I realized that I had to make it on my own because I was never going to be taken as a now late-40ish guy who now had a two year gap in his employment history. (Every month of unemployment works negatively against you.)In a few years, I was making so much money on commissions dealing internationally with currency and stock index futures contracts, that I was able to retire in my late 50′s. But it was 90% luck and only 10% skill. I don’t envy the unemployed. You will always be in my prayers.

MaiDee on March 4, 2011 at 11:01 PM

All kidding aside. I want to thank everyone for posting there real life stories. It helps me to read them. All I can add is “ditto”. I am going through the same kind of experiences and it helps knowing I am not alone. I crack wise to keep my spirits up, but it gets really hard to continue. So thanks and good luck to everyone.

JimP on March 4, 2011 at 4:04 PM

It’s hard. After months and months of applying for jobs that I thought suited me, I finally went a different route and tried for the “services” types of employment. Finally got an interview for hotel-maid. Didn’t get that job, either. Although, I am honest, very hard-working, loyal, on time, never, ever on the cell-phone, no tats, etc. I am at a loss.

betsyz on March 4, 2011 at 4:28 PM

And looking hard on a daily basis. I have applied to fast food joint of all stripe and have submitted resumes for entry level laboror jobs for the last 6 months. I will gladly take anything as I spent most of my life in construction and that end of the job sector isn’t coming back any time soon. I have even relocated to a larger market to increase my chances of landing an entry level job with no results.

darwin-t on March 4, 2011 at 11:25 AM

God bless you and be with each of you. And with others who may be reading in a similar position as yourselves. Every morning before you rise from bed, and each evening before sleep say something really nice to yourself. You’re walking a tough road.

tartan on March 5, 2011 at 8:57 AM

I get it,I get it now,
“And anyway, Vikings are a much misunderstood, and thereby discriminated against, ethnic group. What about all that “berserking” they did and passed on. It’s not Norsemen’s fault they are anger disabled. It’s in our genes.

JimP on March 4, 2011 at 3:30 PM”
.
This explains the whole Wisconsin capitol berserking,white union thug thing. I knew liberalism was a genetic defect but now we can blame it on the Norsemen,of course Wisconsin was first in the state union thing, maybe it is caused by cheese yeast,sort of like an infection or social disease?

Col.John Wm. Reed on March 5, 2011 at 9:08 AM

As someone who is Irish and unemployed for a stretch recently, this really hits home, heh.
But seriously, boo freaking hoo.
I saw this story pop up last fall, too. Employers should be free to hire the candidates that they think are best.
Life isn’t fair.
I’m making less than I was a few years ago, working nights and traded in my cubicle for a forklift. Boo freaking hoo.

reaganaut on March 4, 2011 at 12:00 PM

Slainte :o)
I agree life isn’t fair. I just question the wisdom of assuming that anyone out of work in the current economy is, without consideration of experience or character, automatically less fit for any opening than someone who has a job irrespective of how that job was attained. ( employer was a friend of the family, student applicant was teacher’s pet, sexual attraction etc )
And I extend my prayers and well wishes to people like yourself who are forced to change industry, and make sacrifices in order to make ends meet.

tartan on March 5, 2011 at 9:09 AM

I can think of one small business to start: a company whose sole function is to tell one of these “no unemployed” companies, “Why, yes, so-and-so is employed here.”

Why not lie on your resume, walk out on your mortgage, etc.? The climate these days is such that anyone who has any honor and integrity is a chump.

SDN on March 5, 2011 at 10:11 AM

…and, if you’re unemployed and over 50 you can absolutely forgetaboutit. You’re seen as a sloth, waiting on the day you’ll retire and looking for a rocking chair job to while away the hours. Please don’t suggest I’m wrong — I’ve lived it.

GoldenEagle4444 on March 4, 2011 at 12:59 PM

I believe it. My father was in that position. 24 years within a finance arm of a major bank (bail out recipient) and they just shut down the finance group last year. Some people moved onto different positions for lower pay but some, read older!, people couldn’t find new spots. His favorite was hearing “you’re just too qualified for this position.” What a sad ending to his career since his entire financial & retirement plan was based on working until 70 (he’s 64 now). Thankfully there was severance package which he took and just called it a day. So instead of working to 70 and paying taxes etc on a higher income he has now structured things to pay a significantly lower tax. He also said screw it and is now collecting his social security benefits (I’m just happy to know someone collecting my FICA contribution!)

Personally I work at the same company in the mortgage area and live in extreme fear each day of losing my job given how slow the housing market has become. I’ve made a great living the last 10 years here but the ride is almost over. I figure once the dept walks to the gallows I’m going to go back to school to finish my degree so I guess I’ll just have to deal with an unemployment gap later.

Re: those saying it’s just business for those companies to post a sign the unemployed need not apply” and they can. Well I guess it’s just business when I go to one of their competitors and avoid their business.

VikingGoneWild on March 5, 2011 at 11:40 AM

To those who are criticizing my former posts, where I suggested that people get any job, even flipping burgers…

You seem to ignore the fact that I also suggested volunteer work (I gave an example of an unemployed accountant doing books for a local homeless shelter).

Can’t do volunteer work — I need to get paid. With no money, I can’t pay for daycare for the 2 year old in order to do the volunteer job, and I don’t have family close enough to watch him on a regular basis.

An employer wants to see that you want to work. Gaps look bad. Crappy jobs and volunteer work looks much better than no work at all. Clean some cages for the SPCA, and then get a letter of recommendation from the boss.

I think the fact that I’ve been taking care of my son is “work.” Since I was pregnant when I got laid off, I’ve been using that to explain the recent gap in my work history, which means that I have been working the past 2+ years, just not for pay.

Some have suggested a brilliant alternative: starting your own business. Just work at it – it just might make you rich, and if it doesn’t, it’s still valuable experience that looks good on a resume.

I don’t have a business mind, and with the field I’m planning on entering it’s not really condusive to “starting your own business” unless you plan on tutoring, which could also screw me over in interviews at middle and high schools if I don’t have anything on the resume that shows that I can work with 20+ kids at a time.

ScoopPC11 on March 5, 2011 at 1:07 PM

Sorry if this point has been made in an earlier comment–

I think another big factor is avoiding adminstrative burden. At my job, when a position needs to be filled, my boss gets a stack of resumes six inches thick. It takes a long time to go through all that, and a significant number of those folks probably aren’t really qualified.

If it saves someone an hour in their day to put “no layoff candidates” in a help wanted ad, it’s perfectly rational of them to do it, particularly if (as Ed notes) they haven’t had good experiences hiring longterm unemployed people in the past.

Enrique on March 5, 2011 at 3:41 PM

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