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Woman waits for job interview

Unemployment might become less of a barrier to employment in Madison.

Employers in Madison may no longer discriminate against unemployed workers when making hiring decisions, thanks to a new policy passed by the city council.

Job seekers who have been out a job for weeks or months face a difficult situation: They want a job, but companies often won’t hire people who have been unemployed for an extended period. In other words, the unemployed can’t get a job because…they don’t have a job. Individuals caught in this jobless Catch-22 face a difficult climb back to employment.

New research sheds a light on just how severe the discrimination against the unemployed is in the job market. This Wonkblog article in the Washington Post describes how a researcher sent out thousands of fictional resumes for job openings and measured the responses. “What he found is that employers would rather call back someone with no relevant experience who’s only been out of work for a few months than someone with more relevant experience who’s been out of work for longer than six months.”

The issue of discrimination against the unemployed is especially pertinent right now due to the large numbers of people who have been searching for a job for a long time. Currently, more than a third of jobless workers have been unemployed at least six months — the highest rate of long-term unemployment in nearly three decades.

If the course record of other states proves to be a model, enforcement of Madison’s new policy may be difficult. In New Jersey, which has had a similar law on the books since 2011, only one company has been cited for discriminating against the unemployed.

Despite the challenges, Madison’s new policy is a good start to overcoming the discrimination faced by the long-term unemployed and giving them a fighting chance to get back in the job market.

Photo by Bill Strain released under a Creative Commons license.