The Unemployment Discrimination Myth

The defunct American Jobs Act, which Hans skewered so well a while back, contains a provision to end “discrimination against the unemployed.” Apparently, there are thousands of job advertisements out there that say “unemployed need not apply” or words to that effect. So not only would this be made illegal, but bureaucrats would be empowered to punish firms that exhibited such discrimination. The threat of investigation would probably be enough to kill off what hiring is currently going on overnight.

But is this even a problem? There’s anecdotal evidence, but anything more than that? Online job board took a look:

What I didn’t find:

Any results in the first few pages that specifically excluded the unemployed. None.


Hiring managers discriminate for and against employment candidates for a host of reasons. Some of their reasons are rational and some of them aren’t. Some of their reasons are legal and some of them aren’t.

You can only control your own behavior. Focusing on someone else’s inappropriate behavior doesn’t advance your job search. In fact, it hinders it by sucking your energy.

Don’t believe that employers won’t hire you because you’re unemployed. Believe that they will hire you because of what you can do for their organization – and make sure that your marketing materials tell them exactly what that is.

Now this isn’t a detailed statistical study or anything, but it does suggest that the problem is exaggerated. This is often the way of government — a small problem is dealt with by giving the government sweeping new powers to punish. It’s how we got the ridiculous situation where most student loan debt (which is ultimately debt to the government) is uniquely protected against bankruptcy, without which the Occupy protests would probably fade away…