If You Don't Have a Job Now, You Might Never Get One

This might be the worst economy yet in which to find a job. Sure, the S&P 500  (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) has reached historic highs and has more than doubled since the depths of the market in 2009. The overall index has combined earnings of $87 per share, close to its 2007 high of $94. But the market's recovery doesn't mean much for the overall economy.

The bottom line is that if you've been unemployed, it's likely that you've been unemployed for a while. And that hurts your chances more than you realize.

Weeks to months
Take a look at the median duration of unemployment:

The median time that it takes to find a job has only recently begun to decline after reaching historic levels, and it still remains remarkably high. Scarier than the median duration of about 4.5 months, the average duration adds up to more than nine months of unemployment. This is troubling for this group, because the longer one is unemployed, the less chance one has of finding a new job -- but exactly how much less of a chance?

If no one wants you, we don't want you
In a study The Atlantic highlights, a Northeastern professor found out just how much a gap in employment can hurt your chances of finding a new job. By sending out thousands of resumes and measuring the rate of callbacks, the study found that even when applying for a position that matches their experience, those unemployed longer than six months had a callback rate of about 3%. An applicant with a shorter duration of unemployment had a callback rate of more than 16%.

Even if you don't have related experience for a position, it matters much more that you haven't been unemployed for long. For those who didn't have experience but had only recently become unemployed, the callback rate was around 9%. For those unemployed more than six months without experience, the callback rate was near 0%.

Social proof
As humans, we use social cues to make decisions. If another company has recently vetted you, it's much easier for a potential employer to accept that you are employable. As that interim period drags on, however, hiring managers will wonder why no one else has given you a chance.

There are a few solutions, but they aren't applicable to all situations. If you're long-term unemployed, you could return to school and learn new skills, although this costs money and is more difficult for those who are older and unemployed. You could also start your own business, but not every occupation allows such a venture.

In the end, an employer will want the long-term unemployed to demonstrate that they were productive during employment gaps. But even this may not be enough to land a job, especially with weak demand hurting job creation. There is a chance that many in this group may never be assimilated back into the labor market.

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Read/Post Comments (27) | Recommend This Article (9)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 4:27 PM, cdkeli wrote:

    Time to go fishing,,,again.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 5:27 PM, woofie7 wrote:

    Oh you'll get a job alright -- eventually. You'll just have to wait until Obama and his "team" are out of office.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 5:28 PM, tmarieboucher wrote:

    Volunteer, looks great on your applications even if you haven't worked for months!

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 5:38 PM, GaryR40 wrote:

    woofie7, why are you blaming Obama and excusing the Republicans who haven't produced a jobs bill despite their promise in 2010 election? What about all those jobs outsourced to low wage countries like China? Must the workers accept much lower pay and no benefits like the Chinese in order to bring the jobs back?

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 5:42 PM, luckyagain wrote:

    "For those unemployed more than six months without experience, the callback rate was near 0%."

    Imagine being a new college grad and having no experience.

    Sad but true. Much like age discrimination is common, now a new form of discrimination is happening. Until the economy makes more jobs, finding a job if you are unemployed has become almost impossible.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 5:45 PM, PEOPLESUCK wrote:

    You see right there in front of you that I have the experience. I have the education why wouldnt you want to meet me. Because youre not any good at what you do. You are the problem. Those who are hiring and making decisions are the problem. We need companies investigated. All the recruiting companies, the likes of ULINE, and others. Discriminatory practices

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 5:46 PM, greybuscat wrote:

    A 18-month employment gap didn't stop me from getting a job in a hospital, and I don't have the greatest skill set. Maybe I just got lucky, but I doubt it.

    I think in interviews they simply sense that I'm not at all desperate for the job.

    Besides, not every job is for a faceless corporation, with an inhuman resources DERPartment, sifting through stacks of resumes as tall as the Eiffel Tower, for a single mailroom position.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 5:48 PM, PEOPLESUCK wrote:

    @Greybuscat Good for you, good for you....

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 5:49 PM, Dadw5boys wrote:

    Every time we hired someone that was out of work a long while we got a worker who was ready to go and do anything. They were willing to learn and worked hard at their jobs. I don't ever remember having a problem with them. Some of those who had never know hard long term unemployment need that experince under their belt as a reminder of what is really out there for them .

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 5:51 PM, PEOPLESUCK wrote:

    @Gretbuscat, if you ever make it into a positon of leadership. Don't forget that people do want to work

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 5:52 PM, Dadw5boys wrote:

    Start a Business the license does not cost much it fills in the blanks on your resume and you might even hit on doing something that others find hard to do and get paid well to do it !!!

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 5:53 PM, mikecraig5555 wrote:

    Irresponsible headline. It will likely contribute to some of the long-term unemployed committing suicide. After all, what hope is there if you go by this study.

    Just start lying on resumes, fudge your dates, and get-in-the-door. You can always say it was en error on your part and hopefully your strong work ethic will keep you in place.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 6:49 PM, blueflamestudio wrote:

    Well a great big Thank you for making everyone totally depressed who are looking for work.....

    This article, obviously written by someone lucky enough to have a job......

    I question Motley Fools credibility with posting this piece of junk article.....

    Total BS

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 6:59 PM, zardoz333 wrote:

    well, i pretty much went and decided that after losing my job as a surveyor to repair home computers as i really enjoy that now days , biggest problem i have had is getting the word out so to speak so if you are in Houston, and need one write me at zardoz333on yahoo or go to web site and let em know f i can help you out!

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 9:01 PM, derpderpderp2 wrote:

    Lie, lie, lie. Lie as much as you can get away with when applying for work. The system is senseless and you have no obligation to be honorable with hiring managers who are unwilling or unable to review candidates fairly.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 9:02 PM, LTCOwner wrote:

    As an employer for the last 15 years, we've noticed the general attitude even during the application process is very poor. Many potential employees come in with a ridiculous chip on their shoulder and basically their application goes right to the bottom. Schools need to do a better job in Professionalism preparation everything down to proper attire and language used during a hiring process. The jobs are out there, but the workers aren't because they're too self absorbed. Foreign workers on the other hand come in with better degrees, professionalism and have a true work ethic. Americans need to wise up and realize that the problem isn't the job market it's you. Gotta start with the man in the mirror folks we don't owe you a living, you have to convince us how you can make us better. You need us we don't need you. Labor isn't that hard to find at the end of the day.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 9:34 PM, R40Jonny wrote:

    I'm gonna say this to everyone, if you're reading this then know that whoever you are and wherever you are - whatever you send out to the universe has a return of some kind. Whatever it be. Learned this from having lived, I'm not a senior citizen, I'm only 40 years old, but I can say for certain. Everything in this whole universe that you get from it is relative to what you sent out to it. I'm going no further. Be the best version of who you are and I guarantee that you'll be all right in the end, and have life of joy and prosperity. Period.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 9:52 PM, R40Jonny wrote:

    I said this before, and I'll say it again. Life has taught me one thing. That what you send out to the universe has a return. Do the right thing, always, and the universe will look out for you.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 10:01 PM, Jeffkory wrote:

    The true weapons of our mass destruction bush/cheneys mismanagement of our economy did it in for all of us- There are no jobs- well no good ones-- to be fair - god himself couldn't fix what they did to this economy-- I'm not blaming OB.. We were flushed too far down the tiolet in 08 to bounce back--- Now were still dealing with their blunders-- sequesters - fiscal cliff ect...God help us..

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 10:10 PM, Jeffkory wrote:

    Companies are looking for someone capable of running their companies but want to pay minimum wage while their off on their extravigant vacationes.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 11:16 PM, bugmenot wrote:

    The people reelected Obama. The people decided that the economy must tank. The people decided that unemployment must remain high. The people decided that inner city murders must remain high. The people decided that political corruption is good. Long live Obama and watch America be destroyed.

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2013, at 2:35 AM, olafthestupid wrote:

    well its been 3years, 6 months, unemployed. I'm on welfare now. 50 yrs old. 7kids in home. in foreclosure, wife had to go to work. I can't kill myself, I got kids and I need to hear the rest of my wife's disrespectful rants and her acting like the infrequent sex is exciting with an unemployed failure.

    Thanks for the great article. nothing I can do about it. God has left me to be the waste I am. Not sure why I go to church anymore. cruel life. But it's over now, I failed.

  • Report this Comment On May 13, 2013, at 2:04 PM, Ihatetwall wrote:

    so what your implying is that those of us not working should just go kill ourselves?

    shouldn't those whom have strengths in the workforce stop hiring friends and people who wear dinosaur panties or briefs? My gosh why do I even bother.

    Underemployed for 5 years and will sue this time.

    Grow up and maybe we can all work? since when do we have to have manners on the internet?

  • Report this Comment On August 09, 2014, at 9:47 AM, ladycascadia wrote:

    This story is depressing. All problems and no solutions.

  • Report this Comment On September 10, 2014, at 2:12 AM, olafthestupid wrote:

    ok, its been over a year since I commented here; now on sept 17, 2014, it will be 5 years unemployed!! Lets see, on faith in God, my faith in God is solid, but my faith that He will help me is near zero. What can I tell people about a God who has not helped me get a job? so my witness for God is gone. As a man I am dried up. I still get welfare for a special needs child, so income is not earned, its from a disability. Wife still is disrespectful, but I am more verbal about it so she understands it a little. Still no call backs from resume or help from people I know. Or real help from sympathetic people on LinkedIn. (really cannot advertise I am unemployed on social looks bad) my psych grad school is hopeful but my student loan bill will bankrupt me. I lean toward the lying on your resume thing because all job seeking is a "slight of hand" system. I am not suicidal due to kids to take care of, but I fear what I would do if I had no one.

  • Report this Comment On September 10, 2014, at 4:37 AM, NOTvuffett wrote:

    I know a guy that was unemployed and in a wheelchair. He went and got an online degree.

    I also introduced him to trading stocks. He put in the thought and effort to identify Sirius Radio as a buying opportunity. He made lots from his investment.

    Just by accident, there is another company that wants me to do some part-time work for them. I am not sure if I will accept because I am already busy.

    I am tired of listening to you liberal whiners saying "I can't get a job".

  • Report this Comment On April 19, 2015, at 12:48 AM, sanman322222 wrote:

    I've been long term unemployed. Life sucks it's really not worth living, no friends, no events, no vacations, no girlfriends, marginal nonexistent life. I hate other people, I get very little enjoyment from life. I'd burn this world to the ground if I could.

    I started my own business and it gives me beer money, if not for my inheritance I'd start a movement that would burn this world to the ground in nuclear hellfire.

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