President Barack Obama met Friday with chief executive officers of companies from Bank of America Corp. to eBay Inc. who have committed to giving the long-term unemployed a better chance in the hiring process.
“Folks who’ve been unemployed the longest often have the toughest time getting back to work,” Obama said in remarks to the group. “It’s a cruel Catch-22: The longer you’re unemployed, the more unemployable you may seem.”
More than 300 companies, including retail giant Walmart Stores Inc. and automaker Ford Motor Co., have signed a pledge to develop initiatives for hiring and recruiting job seekers who have been out of work for an extended period, according to the White House.
Twenty-three corporate or small-business leaders joined Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to discuss better job training and helping people who have been jobless for years to re-enter the workforce. Among Friday’s participants were Bank of America’s Brian Moynihan; eBay’s John Donahoe; Boeing Co. CEO James McNerney; James Gorman, CEO of Morgan Stanley; and Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott International Inc.
The president also signed an order directing federal agencies to end hiring practices that put the long-term unemployed at a disadvantage.
As part of the administration’s program, the Labor Department will distribute $150 million in grants to organizations that help the long-term unemployed find jobs.
The hiring initiative was announced in Obama’s Tuesday State of the Union address, in which he said Biden will lead a review of federal job-training programs to ensure the skills they teach meet the demand of employers. He said he’s also setting aside $500 million for community colleges to create job-driven training partnerships with employers and industry.
The White House released a 31-page report that portrayed the plight of the jobless as “the worst legacy of the Great Recession.”
While the national unemployment rate has declined to 6.7 percent, long-term unemployed individuals make up 37.7 percent of the jobless, according to the report. That’s down from 46 percent in 2010 yet remains higher than the pre-recession peak of 26 percent in 1983. As of December 2013, there were 3.9 million long-term jobless Americans, or those without work for more than 27 weeks.