I’ve written about ‘true unemployment rate’ a number of times and the lower the American unemployment rate goes, the ‘truer’ the rate is. I don’t buy these conservatives or economists who profess that there are so many members of our economy that they have stopped trying. Trust me; if someone wants to work now, there is employment available.
Smaller businesses with fewer than 15 employees have been exempt from the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) since 1994. I’ve seen some smaller companies purposely utilize that law to their advantage. However, with unemployment so low, the disabled may have an advantage that did not exist for them in the past. Employers are putting aside prejudices regarding appearance, visible disabilities, body art and body jewelry all for the sake of productivity.
One of the major considerations that is being made is hiring individuals with former convictions…either misdemeanors or felonies. In the past, someone with a felony/misdemeanor conviction could be exempt from the application process by applying for a position online without even ‘checking the box’; larger companies have methods of learning of an individual’s background without waiting for ‘permission’ to do so. I’ve seen this happen with major organizations as well as regional businesses…
This rapidly tightening labor market is forcing companies across the country to consider workers they once would have turned away. This is providing opportunities for people who have faced barriers to employment, such as criminal records, disabilities or lengthy periods of unemployment. It is a basic premise that when the unemployment rate is lower, employers will adapt to people rather than asking people to adapt to them.
It has been a long time since the US economy has experienced this kind of aggressive competition for workers since the late 1990’s and the early 2000’s…the last time unemployment was this low…at the current rate of 4.1%. This job market hasn’t yet translated into higher wages for the American worker but there are signs that could be changing; Walmart raised starting wages for some lower paid workers to $11/hour, something Target did last fall.
There is evidence that employers are advertising positions for those ‘without experience’ or ‘without high school diplomas’. The most profound change (and lack of experience and no high school diploma are ‘biggies’) has been the hiring of ex-felons from prison. Some incarcerated felons have ‘jobs’ before getting out of prison. Individuals in prison for burglary and firearm possession are being hired before their release in joint programs between local businesses and the incarcerating entity.
In some states, prisoners are no longer just making license plates; they are earning enough money to buy a car that can take them to the same place of employment where they worked while incarcerated…and had to get to in a prison van. Felons that are now working on their own or who have gotten out of prison through a work program, are commending the system. No longer do they have to worry about going back into the ‘system’; they feel that they have made it ‘through’. They feel as if they are getting the ‘chance’ that former prisoners in nearly all other larger democracies have been given for years.
Many companies out there are looking for new ways to find pools of people just because their hiring needs are so high. The government doesn’t really collect date on employment for people with criminal records.. But private sector sources suggest that companies have become more willing to consider hiring them. Data from some industries show that 7.9% of online job postings indicate that a criminal background check was required, down from 8.9% in 2014. This may not be a significant number to the reader but in terms of hiring, it is very ambitious.
As employers dip deeper into the pool of available labor, workers are coming off the economy’s sidelines to join the ‘employed’…making me ‘doubt’ my ramblings on the ‘true unemployment’ rate. The participation rate for what economists call prime-age workers, between 25 and 54, hit a seven year high in December. Employment gains have been especially strong for groups that often face discrimination; African Americans unemployment rate fell to 6.8% in November, the lowest rate on record….this, of course, is what Donald Trump is exclaiming that ‘he’ is responsible for…which, as anyone who knows anything about economics…knows that number has nothing to do with him other than his carrying over the same financial programs that have been in place since 2008.
Staffing firms are lamenting that if they don’t hire someone within that first 24 hours, then they have lost the candidate. There were so very many warehouse jobs that were filled over these past holidays that experience, education and background checks were not included as important in the hiring process.
People make mistakes all the time; most don’t get to share their mistakes with a penal system….people are born with infirmities or gather them along the course of life….individuals, for whatever and many varied reasons, fail to complete their ‘education’ and learn that life has challenges for them as well. Everyone is due another ‘chance’ or that first ‘chance’; the sign of a good economy is getting people to work that haven’t had opportunities in the past and want to contribute to society. I will support this no matter who is leading this nation of ours.
Our economy still has too many individuals working part time or in temporary positions. The last economic downturn was a horrid one and there are still a number of individuals that just haven’t caught up yet. There are a great deal of good, solid workers out there…if you need help finding them or if you are looking for a position and are coming up against some every day challenges, please contact me. Rosanne Bennett at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 484-718-4327.