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Saturday, October 22, 2016

WASHINGTON — Tapping the bully pulpit, President Barack Obama used the White House backdrop Friday to urge American companies — and Congress — to help the nearly 4 million long-term unemployed.

In a White House ceremony, Obama brought out workers who have been jobless for more than half a year to insert real people into a bitter bipartisan debate over the expiration of benefits for the long-term unemployed.

“Folks who have been unemployed the longest often have the toughest time getting back to work,” the president said, highlighting Misty Demars, a mother of two boys who’d never before depended on government benefits. “It’s a cruel Catch-22: The longer you’re unemployed, the more unemployable you may seem.”

According to one study Obama cited, those who’ve been out of work eight months are likely to get called back for interviews only about half as often as those who’ve been out of work one month, even with identical resumes.

“Statistically, the long-term unemployed are oftentimes slightly better educated, in some cases better qualified, than folks who just lost their job,” the president said. “Just because you have been out of work for a while does not mean that you are not a hard worker. Just means you had bad luck or you were in the wrong industry or you lived in a region of the country that’s catching up a little slower than others in the recovery.”

Earlier Friday, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, Jason Furman, met with reporters at a breakfast held by The Christian Science Monitor and stressed that there isn’t any one thing that stands out about these long-term jobless workers other than their duration of unemployment.

“To a first approximation, the long-term unemployed look an awful lot like the labor force as a whole,” Furman said. “This is not some especially disadvantaged or less-skilled group.”

Obama spoke in the East Room of the White House, alongside Vice President Joe Biden, after he met with the CEOs of some of the nation’s largest public and private businesses.

He continued to urge Congress to pass benefits for more than 1 million of the nation’s unemployed. Roughly 3 million long-term unemployed still qualify for benefits.

“Last month Congress made that harder by letting unemployment insurance expire for more than a million people,” the president said, adding that 72,000 people a week are now losing their “economic lifeline.”

Obama also announced a $150 million grant competition through the Department of Labor to support public-private partnerships geared toward helping to prepare and place the long-term unemployed in open positions. Applications will be available in February and awards will be made in mid-2014.

More than 300 companies, including 80 of the nation’s largest businesses, have agreed to a new policy spelling out ways they’ll try to recruit and hire the long-term unemployed, the president said. They’ll ensure that advertising doesn’t discourage or discriminate against the unemployed, and they’ll review recruiting procedures, encourage all qualified candidates to apply and share information about hiring the long-term unemployed within their companies and across their supply chains and the business community.

Obama signed a presidential memorandum to ensure that government adopts the same practices.

“The federal government is America’s largest employer. While seeking to employ a talented and productive workforce, it has a responsibility to lead by example,” the memorandum said, spelling out new guidelines for hiring.

In another step to help workers, Furman said, Obama’s fiscal 2015 budget plan will propose expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, now available for lower-income workers with children, to include lower-income workers without them.

“That is very much a work-oriented approach. It’s very much about increasing the reward for work, and we expect it to have many of the same benefits in terms of participation and (economic) mobility,” Furman said. “That’s what he is going to be out there proposing.”

Companies and organizations that committed to expand efforts to recruit or hire the long-term unemployed include LinkedIn, Skills for America’s Future, National Fund for Workforce Solutions, Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, Per Scholas, Goodwill Industries, JPMorgan Chase, AARP Foundation, Platform to Employment and Pacific Gas & Electric.

AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski

  • Dominick Vila

    A potential solution to help reduce the number of long-term unemployment is for the Federal, State and Local government to offer them jobs. Identifying them should not be a problem, I am sure the government has records of those who collected, or are still collecting, unemployment benefits. Yes, government expenditures would go up if this approach is taken, but isn’t it better to spend money and getting something in return than fighting over the issue of helping fellow Americans subsist?
    Republicans object to government handouts and insult those who can’t make ends meet for a variety of reasons, often beyond their control, will they also object to hiring them and offering an opportunity to get help with a modicum of dignity?

    • Robert Roberto

      Your solution make sense, but also remember those earning minimum wage would also love to work in those jobs too. They may be working, but they are the working poor.

      • Dominick Vila

        Considering the fact that our multi-nationals are more inclined to invest abroad; hire as few American workers as possible, and hire part timers or temporaries to reduce operating costs and increase profits, the only option is government investment at all levels. Even if American corporations had a sudden change of heart and decided to help the unemployed and those who barely make enough to stay afloat, the unlikely opportunities will be limited to sectors such as manufacturing, construction, hospitality, and services. The private sector seldom invests in infrastructure for a simple reason: it is not profitable. The Federal government, and State government, must invest in road and bridge repair, modernizing our seaports and airports to catch up with those in other industrialized nations, we must make our power grid more efficient, and we must invest in R&D, modernization, alternative energy sources, and education before it is too late and we end up so far behind that we can never catch up with our competitors. The icing on the cake, when it comes to public sector investment, is that millions of Americans will get a job and be able to contribute to the betterment of our society and the economic strength of our country.
        Instead, we remain fixated on the construction of the Keystone pipeline, to make sure the Koch brothers can transport toxic tar sand oil from Canada to Gulf states for export to China. Has anyone wondered why hasn’t Canada built that pipeline to their West Coast to export it to China? Answer: because Canadians don’t want their environment compromised. Should we assume that the GOP solution to our remaining economic woes is to compete with the Third World countries we ship our garbage to?

  • daniel bostdorf

    I think the President and other political leaders need to significantly REthink about how to solve poverty and unemployment altogether. At the same time cutting hundreds of billions of dollars.

    Asking for multinationals/business leaders and the do nothing obstructionist GOP to “help” long term joblessness is…well… a nice PR idea. There is no substance.

    We need a guaranteed yearly income based upon Federal poverty statistics by state that links this to jobs created to repair and rebuild this country from top to bottom based NOT upon war and the military….but on peace and taking care of everyone that wants a job and is able to work.

    We need massive training and education programs.

    Back in 1967 Dr. Martin Luther King and highly respected economists both Democrat and Repiublican proposed a guaranteed annual income as the final way to eliminate poverty once and for all.

    Concept is outlined here:

    From the article:
    “Rev. Dr. King viewed the guaranteed income as the way to abolish poverty. It does have that effect, but when prRev. Dr. King viewed the guaranteed income as the way to abolish poverty. It does have that effect, but when properly funded (not touching earned income) and properly distributed (to all people), it becomes more than that — it can be a fundamental instrument of economic justice.operly funded (not touching earned income) and properly distributed (to all people), it becomes more than that — it can be a fundamental instrument of economic justice.”

    This is a no brainer…../A guaranteed annual out of poverty level annual income would eliminate all antiquated social programs and nearly all entitlements. It would make this country the leader in eliminating poverty once and for all. In addition, We need livable affordable housing, and a pathway to home ownership with all the positive economic consequences.

    The article link contains a dollar figure in 1967 as needing 20 billion to do this.

    In 1967 1 million dollars is now $6,978,113.77.
    (7 times factoring inflation:

    A 1000 million is a billion.
    Therefore—we would need only 140 billion. Easily obtainable by transfering that out of existing trillion dollar social programs, and creating a single source for all social programs integrated into a guranteed wage that has a job attached to it.

    The consequences are very clear and far more logical than the entire mess of dozens of social welfare programs: We have those that were once poor, no job, no way up and out of poverty now NOT poor. They are tax payers.

    Simply asking business and the do nothing GOP to “help” is not the solution…asking the same old question is.

    It is time for Presidential leadership—not more talk.

  • 4sanity4all

    I am so glad that the President called out the employers that refuse to consider a person who has been unemployed for a long time. Do they not realize that a person who, through no fault of his own, has been unable to secure work, would be grateful for a chance, and would be a very loyal employee? If every employer in the country added one good job today, I bet the jobless problem would be solved tomorrow. I think it is shameful that companies who could create a couple of jobs are sitting on their hands, piling work on those employees who remain, and forcing them to work long hours for no extra pay. Many companies cut out employees when the economy soured. But now that those companies are making huge profits, they are not paying those workers at the bottom of the pay scale. It should not be up to the government to force them to be fair. They should spread the wealth that their employees create for them back to the employees. If they do not start to play fair, I will not feel sorry for them if people demand more government regulation and higher taxes on them. They will have brought it on themselves.