Not that we didn't already know this in our guts, but now they've done a study to prove it. The Atlantic reports that employers intentionally screen out the long-term unemployed even if their resumé has the same work experience as someone unemployed for less than six months.
But just how bad is it for the long-term unemployed? Ghayad ran a follow-up field experiment to find out. In a new working paper, he sent out 4800 fictitious resumes to 600 job openings, with 3600 of them for fake unemployed people. Among those 3600, he varied how long they'd been out of work, how often they'd switched jobs, and whether they had any industry experience. Everything else was kept constant. The mocked-up resumes were all male, all had randomly-selected (and racially ambiguous) names, and all had similar education backgrounds. The question was which of them would get callbacks.
It turns out long-term unemployment is much scarier than you could possibly imagine.
The results are equal parts unsurprising and terrifying. Employers prefer applicants who haven't been out of work for very long, applicants who have industry experience, and applicants who haven't moved between jobs that much. But how long you've been out of work trumps those other factors. As you can see in the chart below from Ghayad's paper, people with relevant experience (red) who had been out of work for six months or longer got called back less than people without relevant experience (blue) who'd been out of work shorter.
Look at that again. As long as you've been out of work for less than six months, you can get called back even if you don't have experience. But after you've been out of work for six months, it doesn't matter what experience you have. Quite literally. There's only a 2.12 percentage point difference in callback rates for the long-term unemployed with or without industry experience. That's compared to a 7.13 and 8.95 percentage point difference for the short-and-medium-term unemployed. This is what screening out the long-term unemployed looks like. In other words, the first thing employers look at is how long you've been out of work, and that's the only thing they look at if it's been six months or longer.
Don't get me started on how people who are out of work, female, and over age 50 do with trying to get a job anywhere. My data is purely anecdotal, of course, but it's even worse than what this study proves. After all, why should employers hire expensive employees when they can find young people lined up at the door to fill the jobs?
Here's a report from 2011. Nearly two years later the economy is recovering for everyone but the long-term unemployed, especially if they're over 50.