The following is a statement from Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, on the Senate’s failure to bring to a vote a three-month extension of emergency unemployment compensation.

Washington, DC—As President Obama convenes top business leaders today to discuss how they can improve job opportunities for the nation’s long-term unemployed, a new report from the National Employment Law Project lays out nine concrete actions that the administration, business leaders, and Congress should take to help put long-term job-seekers back to work.

Among these ideas are some that the Obama administration is already acting on.  At today’s gathering, the president will highlight a pledge, signed by CEOs of some of the nation’s largest employers, to end discrimination against the long-term unemployed in their hiring and recruiting policies.  During the economic downturn, it became routine practice for companies and staffing agencies to openly discriminate against unemployed workers in job postings and screening procedures.  Such exclusionary job ads persist to this day.

“We need to put a stop to this perverse catch-22 that says that job-seekers need to have a job in order to get a job,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project.  “This discriminatory practice is debilitating to workers, lazy and counterproductive as a human resource policy, and bad for our economy, especially when long-term joblessness is one of the toughest problems facing our economy today.”

“But while the president and business leaders consider how they can help expand employment opportunities for the long-term unemployed, the most immediate and concrete action needed right now is for Congress to reauthorize emergency jobless aid for these workers and their families,” said Owens.  “That crucial humanitarian aid will help 1.6 million long-term unemployed workers stay in their homes and keep the heat on for their families, while enabling them to continue searching for work.”

The Great Recession officially ended in June 2009, but today’s long-term unemployment rate remains at near-record levels.  Around 38 percent of unemployed workers have been out of work for six months or more, compared with only 17 percent prior to the start of the recession.  More than one in four jobless workers have been out of work for one year or more.  In all, 3.9 million Americans are currently long-term unemployed.

The NELP report also calls on the federal government to serve as a model employer—it urges the president to issue an executive order that would require federal agencies and contractors to adhere to hiring practices outlined in the Fair Employment Opportunity Act, which was included in the president’s own American Jobs Act legislation several years ago.  The anti-discrimination bill was reintroduced just this week by Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

Additionally, the report highlights actions that governors as well as state and local officials are taking to address the crisis of long-term unemployment, while recommending policies that the administration and Congress could enact to support local efforts.  In addition to reauthorizing Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which is a critical first step to helping the long-term unemployed stay actively engaged in looking for work, these policies include providing financial incentives to encourage businesses to hire disadvantaged and long-term unemployed workers and bolstering existing volunteer programs such as the AmeriCorps.

Emma Stieglitz
(646) 200-5307

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