How Do We Solve the Crisis of Long-Term Unemployment


he United States continues to struggle with helping people who have been chronically unemployed (including the homeless, ex-offenders and military veterans) for a lengthy period of time.  It is important to the future of our society and economy that we implement innovative ways to address this vital issue.  So, how do we do it?

There are no easy answers to this problem.  Employers are often concerned about hiring people who have been unemployed for a long period of time.  Issues such as educational achievement, dependability, work ethic and drive factor in when companies look at candidates.  While not necessarily fair, the stigma is real.

Many states are implementing creative ideas to try to solve this issue.  The federal government can certainly provide financial support to help in this endeavor, but cities and states are best positioned to shape initiatives to help their residents.  Please find below some states that are trying to address this issue.

  1. New Jersey: The state has implemented the New Jersey Career Connections program that not only helps with the training of its citizens, but also matches companies and candidates, links people to training resources and provides information regarding skills required for different types of positions.

Additionally, the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development provides OnRamp for Jobseekers that includes a location to upload resumes and search for open position around New Jersey.

  1. Utah: The state has implemented an innovative training program to upgrade the skills of the unemployed to be positioned to fill job openings from growing businesses.  Funding can be used directly by individuals for education, credentials or certifications.
  1. Connecticut: The state has partnered with a non-profit, The Workplace, to launch the Platform to Employment (P2E) program statewide.  The program works with regional Workforce Investment Boards throughout the state to help upgrade the skills of unemployed people who have exhausted their unemployment benefits.

In particular, the P2E program has gained significant momentum throughout the United States.  Today, approximately 40 states are testing this program on a local, regional or state basis.  Please find below a summary of some of the key elements of the program.

a.  Pays the worker’s salary for the first two months of employment. This helps mitigate the risk a company takes in hiring someone who has been chronically unemployed.  This component of the program reports a 90% success rate nationally.

b.  Works with people who have been unemployed for a long period of time to boost confidence and help with job preparedness skills.

c.  Accepts people into the program that have demonstrated work skills in the past. Sometimes these candidates need a skills upgrade, but most often, preparing a resume, social media training and confidence in using computers are the biggest impediments that they face.

d.  Funded through private donors, foundations and governmental entities (local, state and federal).

e.  Works with candidates from all socio-economic backgrounds, educational achievement levels and previous job experiences.

Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics Household survey in March 2017, there were approximately 1.7 million people who had been unemployed for more than six months.  This represents nearly one-quarter of everyone who is currently unemployed.  Although this is down from 28% in March 2016, it shows that the challenge that our country faces is even greater than one may think. A solution is critical.

Indiana is currently implementing some elements of P2E.  In the next few years, Indiana should be able to evaluate how the state is faring with this new program.  However, it is important for local and regional areas to embrace this effort.  They are the ones closest to the problem and are best suited to help prescribe a solution.

We have an economic and moral obligation to collaborate to solve this issue.  Every member of our society has value, and we have a responsibility to implement solutions to help the chronically unemployed.  The cities, regions and states that solve this problem first will be the economic winners in the future.

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