Maybe if it were illegal to discriminate against the long-term jobless, and doing so led to stiff fines, Cheryl Spaulding would be more impressed with the pledge to hire the long-term jobless made by business executives at the White House on Friday.
"Every little bit helps," said Spaulding, cofounder of Joseph's People, a network of support groups for the unemployed based in Philadelphia suburban churches.
"The truth is that there is no incentive to hire these people, other than ethical and moral," she said.
On Friday, President Obama secured commitments from nearly 300 chief executive officers to reach out to the long-term unemployed and make sure hiring practices do not discourage them from applying for jobs and being hired.
"It's a cruel Catch-22 - the longer you're unemployed, the more unemployable you may seem," Obama said. "According to one study, if you've been out of work eight months, you're likely to get called back for an interview only about half as often as if you've been out of work one month - even with the identical resumé."
Among the CEOs at the White House Friday were executives from eBay, Morgan Stanley, Boeing, and McDonald's.
In December, the unemployment rate fell below 7 percent, to 6.7 percent. Nearly four million people, or 37 percent of the 10.4 million unemployed, have been out of work for more than six months, the U.S. Labor Department said.
"Employers must be able to recognize the human capital potential in the ranks of the long-term unemployed," Henry Jackson, president of the 260,000-member Society of Human Resource Professionals, said in a statement.
Obama also called on Congress to reinstitute federally funded unemployment benefits that kick in after the six months of jobless benefits paid at the state level. The federally funded benefits came to an end Dec. 31, affecting 1.6 million people.
This article contains information from the Associated Press.