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US Labor Secretary on Long-Term Unemployed – It keeps me up at night because their stories are so compelling

Perez said the plight of the long-term unemployed – or those without work for at least 27 weeks — is the one issue that has caused him to lose sleep. He has met with many such workers since becoming Labor Secretary about a year ago.

Capture d’écran 2014-09-01 à 09.32.51“It keeps me up at night because their stories are so compelling,” he said. “My first instinct is (there) but for the grace of God could go anyone.”

There is a reason long-term unemployment would be capable of consuming Perez’ thoughts. This is the first time long-term unemployment has lasted so far into a recovery. In July, there were 3.2 million long-term unemployed, down by 1.1 million in July 2013. They accounted for about one-third of the total number of unemployed. Based on the recovery patterns from other recessions, the number of long-term unemployed should be substantially lower by now.

The Labor Department has developed a multi-pronged strategy aimed at lowering long-term unemployment, including funding that specifically targets this population. For example, this fall the department is scheduled to award $150 million in Ready to Work Partnership grants for programs that provide components such as work-based training and job placement assistance, so that the long-term unemployed may fill middle- and high-skill jobs. The grant seeks to create a pipeline of domestic employees for jobs in which employers currently use foreign workers on H-1B visas. Others initiatives aimed at the long-term unemployed include the Labor Secretary joining President Barack Obama in using the “bully pulpit” to persuade companies to abandon employment screening policies, such as credit checks, that effectively eliminate the long-term unemployed, who are more apt to be struggling with their finances.

“For me, it is both a national economic imperative to get the long-term unemployed back on their feet,” Perez said. “It is a moral imperative. As a nation, we don’t kick people to the curb when they’ve had bad luck, and that is what they’ve had.”

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at  Is long-term unemployment here to stay? (with photo gallery) | cleveland.com.

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