CTPOST. By Joe Carbone. September 3, 2020
Back up to March 6, 2020. The jobs report is issued, unemployment is at a half-century low and virtually all labor indexes were never rosier. Now fast forward to Dec. 31, 2020. Millions of Americans will exhaust unemployment benefits, and the unemployment rate is 8.5 percent (optimistically). They had a total of 39 weeks of benefits, plus the pandemic supplement, and are now considered long-term unemployed. They are jobless and must now compete in a buyer’s market and overcome the stigma and inherent discrimination that comes with long-term unemployment.
We were there a short time ago, in the “Great Recession,” and we saw its damaging effects on individuals, families and careers. This historic failure is about to repeat itself. We have all heard the words, “you need a job to get a job.” That sentiment is not quite right but not far off. If one is employed, full-time, part-time or in any capacity in any discipline, the probability of securing an interview and a job is enhanced. As 2020 comes to an end, we all hope that the COVID-19 threat diminishes. But the unemployed face another challenge; long-term unemployment and its avoidance can be a lifesaver.
We know that long-term unemployment has devastating economic side effects impacting individuals, families and communities. During the Great Recession and for years following, millions of Americans watched their savings and retirement get wiped away. Countless numbers lost their homes to foreclosure. Some succumbed to the strain and turned to drugs and alcohol. Traditional remedies do not adequately address the emotional, psychological and financial scars that arise from long-term unemployment.
According to a report issued by the U.S. Department of Labor, nearly 31 million Americans are relying on some form of unemployment benefits. Economists project that one-third or more of these layoffs may become permanent. We remember well some of the lessons from the Great Recession, including that the longer a person is unemployed the less marketable they become.
To address the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress passed a $2 trillion stimulus package in March. The CARES Act expanded unemployment benefits by adding up to 13 weeks of benefits on top of the standard 26 weeks. The best way to prevent the looming threat of long-term unemployment is to get a job, the best job you can. Your status as employed is the best way to shield yourself from the pernicious force of long-term unemployment. You should not wait for government to help; there is not time for that.
But it will take some time for our nation’s economy to adjust to the new norms post COVID. There will be fewer jobs than people who need them. So what can job-seekers do to avoid being part of the carnage we saw in 2011 when millions of Americans were trapped in unemployment? At that time, The WorkPlace created Platform to Employment, or P2E, to help break the cycle of long-term unemployment. It is a program that recognizes market conditions and responds with market-driven solutions, it makes business sense and its nine-year record demonstrates that its works.
P2E was featured on “60 Minutes” in an episode called “Trapped in Unemployment.” I recommend that folks Google it and watch the experiences of people as they went through the P2E experience. After the telecast, President Obama had a White House summit on long term unemployment and specifically featured our program. P2E has consistently achieved an 80 percent or better rate of success. I thank Gov. Ned Lamont for his unwavering support for P2E. This includes a P2E 2.0, which we launched to help people experiencing unemployment due to COVID-19, and the early data is phenomenal.
We must ensure that the long-term unemployed are not forgotten. FDR once said, “There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.” Platform to Employment will serve as a vehicle of hope as we go forward together. We cannot stand still; it’s our duty not to, so let us begin.
Joe Carbone is president and CEO of The WorkPlace, southwestern Connecticut’s workforce development board.