Unemployed? Don’t Bother Applying.

Being unemployed, especially in the long term, makes it less likely to get hired.

The L.A. Times notes that the trend of employers not hiring the currently unemployed continues unabated.

Now there’s a growing trend of employers refusing to consider the unemployed for job openings, according to a number of people who testified before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Wednesday. They say that employers are barring the unemployed from job openings, which is particularly unfair to older workers and African Americans because more of them are unemployed.


Several examples of discriminatory help-wanted ads were offered: a Texas electronics company said online that it would “not consider/review anyone NOT currently employed regardless of the reason”; an ad for a restaurant manager position in New Jersey said applicants must be employed; a phone manufacturer’s job announcement said “No Unemployed Candidates Will Be Considered At All,” according to Helen Norton, associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Law.

Even if the companies pull the language from their ads, many still discriminate against the unemployed, Owens said. The long-term unemployed are perhaps in the worst shape; employers worry that their skills are outdated and pass over them for positions, which means they are unemployed for even longer and have more difficulty finding work.

This isn’t a unique data point, either. This trend was already established before the financial crisis and has only gotten worse since. Something to ponder next time unemployment benefits come up for extension: for a lot of folks, that’s the slim difference between paying the rent and being out on the streets. And we’re in an economic situation where companies aren’t hiring the unemployed and there are over four unemployed people for every job opening.

In the meantime, for the past seven quarters, corporate profits have steadily increased have increased to an all time nominal high. And those Wall Street companies who got us into this mess and were bailed out courtesy of Uncle Sam? Oh yeah, they’re scoring record-high incomes and bonuses.

Don’t worry, though. I’m sure all that cash will “trickle down” eventually, right?


(link via Kevin Drum)

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, US Politics, , , , , , ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    As I recall we had a thread a while back on the question of whether CEO’s owed anything other than devotion to the bottom line. I also recall I was one o few arguing that CEO”s are not exempt from basic morality.

    I’ll repeat what I sai there: No one can opt out of the moral code.

    The CEO’s — and again, these are actual humans not some sort of CEO-Robot — who promulgate these policies are behaving immorally. They are contemptible. They deserve scorn.

  2. Rocky Pope says:

    Michael certainly told it like it is. I would tend to think that few other CEOs would be in agreement with his sentiment.

  3. george says:

    >The CEO’s — and again, these are actual humans not some sort of CEO-Robot — who promulgate these policies are behaving immorally. They are contemptible. They deserve scorn.

    I agree with all of that except your certainty that they’re not some sort of Robot – its hard to avoid the suspicion that at least some of them are (fairly simple) Turing machines.

  4. anjin-san says:


    You question the right to unlimited profits with no morality? This is what is going to happen to you:


  5. J. Stephen says:

    This “trend”, according to the article, is based on “a number of people” who testified before a committee and some examples of help wanted signs. Not saying it isn’t happening. After all, who wouldn’t be pretty suspicious of someone who has been unemployed for 27+ weeks and/or less than willing to hire an otherwise overqualified unemployed candidate knowing they will jump ship the moment something better comes along? However, I doubt very seriously that this trend is as substantial as this piece seems to be implying.

  6. ponce says:

    All we need is a tax on corporate cash hoards that can be avoided by hiring enough long term unemployed workers…

  7. michael reynolds says:


    Shatner is the god of TV. Four hit series? Who does that?

    Plus, he rocks Robert Conrad’s wardrobe and outsmarts a computer composed of a refrigerator carton and a string of Christmas lights? Only Shatner could pull that off.

  8. Matt says:

    I remember my dad telling me, back in the 80’s, that it was easier to get a job when you already had one, so I don’t think this is anything new. Is it short-sighted on the part of the employers? Possibly, but they can also afford to be far more choosy than during the good, old days of 5%.

    What I don’t understand is when the unemployed became a protected class, unless one assumes that these businesses are using employment status as a handy excuse to discriminate against the elderly and African-Americans. Since I’m not quite ready to be that paranoid, I’ll just go with the natural human tendency when you’re looking at a candidate with a big hole in their resume versus one who doesn’t. Life isn’t always fair.

  9. James Joyner says:

    I get why employers would prefer the currently employed. Not only is there the perception that “there must be something wrong with you” if you don’t have a job — after all, 92% do! — but it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that those lacking paychecks are more desperate, and thus may not really want your job other than as a port in the storm.

    Still, you’d expect some flexibility on this point given the current economy.You’d still likely favor the currently employed all things being equal but at least consider highly qualified — but not overqualified — applicants without a job.

  10. michael reynolds says:


    There is no “life” being unfair. There’s individual CEOs and individual HR people. Human beings making individual choices. In this case stupid and immoral decisions.

    They want a short-hand way to evaluate applicants, so they grab on the first conventional wisdom notion they overhear and apply it in such a way as to deprive fellow Americans of opportunity.

    “Life” doesn’t do a damned thing. People do.

  11. Ole Sarge says:

    As a woman past that “golden gate” age of 40, yes, there is more than subtle discrimination in hiring practices. Now as I approach 50, it is even MORE so than before. My skills are current, (amazing what you can do as a volunteer) I can find “work” I just cannot not get “paying” employment.

    My resume gets attention. I get asked questions over the telephone, getting pre-screened, and then invited to come in. It’s the interview, where I walk in and can’t hide that I am a middle-aged woman. From the first “size-up” and it goes down hill from there.

    I totally understand where entrepreneurs and self-employment are necessary when you are over 50. But even then, it’s still hard to crack into employment by having paying clients.

  12. bandit says:

    It’s not the purpose of business to provide employment. Sorry but the world doesn’t owe anyone a living. Jobs are not handouts. The job market is a double auction market. It requires that applicants have something employeers want and that employers offer acceptable compensation to the applicants. The statement that there are 4 unemployed for every open position is meaningless. If people lack the skills employers need then there are no unemployed for that job. My company has been trying to hire people for over a year. I’ve interviewed any number of candidates and we can’t fill the positions. We’ve had 2 people in the last 4 months work for 2 days or less then quit. Nobody is going to hire people they don’t need and it’s stupid to think they will.

  13. Neo says:

    I work in an industry that expect 10% turnover of employees every year. If it doesn’t get to 10%, they try to push out enough to make it 10%. They figure that 10% of the workforce is always “below par” and need to be sent packing.

  14. Alex Knapp says:

    @J. Stephen – The trend I reference in the post is what I’ve picked up from my own reading, not this article specifically.

    @Matt – I agree that making the unemployed a protected class against discrimination is problematic. That doesn’t make it less stupid on the part of businesses, though.

    @bandit – You are rebutting an argument that nobody is making.

  15. Matt says:

    @michael reynolds

    If your argument is that all people who hire others are stupid and/or evil, then there’s really no basis for a discussion. It’s a buyer’s market for employers right now. From 2000-2008, we hired a lot of under-qualified people in the hope (many times successful) that they’d grow into the positions, Now we can choose from a pool of those who are actually qualified. It’s not a conspiracy, it’s just reality right now.

  16. bandit says:

    @Alex – are you high? How many commenters are saying that somehow the unemployed are somehow owed jobs and their not being hired is somehow wrong. Let me count, 1,2,3.

  17. wr says:

    Gosh, Bandit, let me guess — are you offering a good wage and benefit package for your long-sought employee, or are you trying to hire a skilled employee on the cheap because you think you can get away with it since the economy is bad?

    That’s a tough one.

  18. michael reynolds says:


    As Alex says above to bandit, you’re rebutting an argument no one is making.

    We are talking about employers establishing a policy of refusing to hire anyone who is currently unemployed. So do you think that everyone who is unemployed deserves to be unemployed because they lack skills? Or do you think perhaps quite a number of the unemployed are perfectly qualified and being excluded solely because some CEOs are assholes?

    And let’s drop the weasel words. It’s not “the market” doing this, it’s individual executives.


    No, Alex is right, and you’d just prefer to debate a straw man rather than deal more straightforwardly.

  19. bandit says:


    I think the $1teens is fair compensation for the positions we’re trying to hire for – except 1 is probably below $100k but would still be the market rate. We’ve only had 1 candidate not accept for compensation. The other candidates all either has grossly inflated resumes or were bad fits.

    @mr – keep whining

  20. michael reynolds says:


    Thus confirming what both Alex and I have said about you.

  21. anjin-san says:

    You’ve got to admit Bandit’s cool photo partially offsets the lame posts…

  22. Drew says:

    Speaking of morals……….

    Anyone who has owned a business, or many, as have I, knows that these arguments made by certain people here go one way.

    The employee is free to leave for any other job as he/she pleases, despite having been given training/bennies etc. That seems to be OK. Further, and the left simply cannot come to grips with this: serial job holders (not all, but a majority) tend to be the problem employees. Always complaining, always looking to get on disability, great resume/no meat, frequently absent etc.

    Its only rational to look upon unemployed people in a rational fashion.

    I know this will get alot of invective thrown my way, but business is a full contact, no mercy sport. Not one in a hundred business owners will disagree with me, but all those with an employees mentality will view me as the great Satan. But I, too, have a boss: the capital providers. And they are merciless. And if you don’t like that, you can move to Cuba.

  23. Larry in Seattle says:

    For you who choose to believe the government’s estimate of the rate of unemployment, you are either deaf, unable to read or fools. The estimate is based on unemployment benefits claims. Those who have been denied benfits, ran out of benefits, tried to use their savings to start a small business, lost their homes and live on the street or gave up all together are all just as unemployed as those who claimed. The rate is greater than double what is being reported. That is a very large group of Americans. I would think that, in this world of social networking, a company that depends on consumers for its livelihood such as Sony Ericsson, would need to be very careful as to their policies on hiring. As we have see in the news/world lately, a country’s government regime was changed by people united through the internet social networks. Why couldn’t a network of those unemployed, their sympathisers and friends develop a list of those companies with similar hiring policies and boycott those companies and their products? 20%+ of the American workforce that isn’t working IS A VERY LARGE NUMBER AND WE ALL HAVE COMPUTERS!!!!!! Company CEO’s and HR managers should ask Mabarak how powerful social networks are today and what happens when policies take away the hope and the lives of the people. It could start today.