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Bringing the long-term unemployed back to the office

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President Obama’s visit to Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday to discuss the economy comes a day after the U.S. Senate failed to advance a plan restoring jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed. 

Those workers, who’ve been without a job for six months, number roughly 3.8 million. Russ Lane of Durham is one of them. He left a newspaper job six years ago to take care of a sick family member, and he says he hasn’t had steady work since — no matter what companies think of his resume.

“If the paper doesn’t look exactly as they so choose,” he says, “they’ll make their decisions.”

William Dickens of Northeastern University says if you’re qualified and recently unemployed, you have about 10 to 20 percent chance of landing an interview for a job. 

“Compared to after six months, you have somewhere in the range of a one to two percent chance of being called in for a job,” he says.

Dickens commends the President for calling on CEOs to give the long-term unemployed a shot. Many companies just weed them out electronically. Michael Strain of the American Enterprise Institute has his own ideas, including using unemployment insurance to help pay people to move to places where there are jobs. 

“It may make sense to say, hey, we’ll cut you a check and help you move to, say, North Dakota where there are a lot of jobs for truck drivers,” he says.

Strain also thinks a lower minimum wage might entice companies to take a chance on these workers, though he doesn’t expect the president to take him up on that idea. 

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