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Can President Obama’s New Jobs Plan Save the Long-Term Unemployed?

By Amanda Alix – Jul 27, 2014 at 8:31AM

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The Obama administration is throwing billions at the Ready to Work Initiative, hoping to help the longtime jobless

The June jobs report was one of the rosiest in years, showing a robust gain in employment, and knocking the national unemployment rate down to 6.1%. Progress was obvious, as well, in the situation of the long-term employed, 293,000 of whom found work in June. The number of workers out of work for 27 weeks or longer sits now at 3.1 million, compared to 4.3 million one year ago.

But, wait. The number of people involuntarily working part time because they could not find full-time jobs also rose in June, by 111,000. Very likely, some dropped out of the job search arena altogether, as well.

The report noted that the number of discouraged workers has fallen year over year, from 1.03 million last June, to 676,000. From May to June, in fact, the number dropped by 21,000. How many of these persons, who sought work within the previous 12 months but not in the four weeks preceding the employment survey, have simply fallen by the wayside, and are no longer being counted as "unemployed"? 

Obama targets in-demand jobs, long-term unemployed
The President began the year championing the cause of the long-term unemployed in an effort to prod Congress to renew emergency unemployment benefits. While nothing was done on that score, Obama did highlight the plight of those experiencing extended periods of joblessness, asking big employers to promise to try and give these former workers a fair shake in the hiring process.

Meantime, the administration began work on a job training study, whereby existing programs would be beefed up, and new ones created – with the goal being to match unemployed workers with in-demand vacant jobs. The Ready to Work Initiative will be a collaborative effort between government, employers, and educators to resolve a problem that had previously never been observed: persistent, high levels of long-term joblessness that encompassed all age and educational groups. 

The report notes that, while long-term unemployment has decreased appreciably since the nation was in the throes of the Great Recession, it is still uncomfortably high. The Obama administration has awarded $950 million in grants meant to make occupational training more "jobs-driven" by pairing educational efforts to the kinds of in-demand jobs available. Next year, an additional $1.4 billion will be allotted, some of it aimed at workers who have been jobless for six months or more. 

Will it work?
That's the big question, of course. The administration seems to have done a good job targeting who needs help, as well as realizing that a public-private partnership is the most expedient method of solving the dual problems of long-term unemployment and a shortage of workers with the skills necessary to fill vacant jobs.

The Initiative has also taken a look at existing training programs. With $15 billion in federal funding at stake, the administration is making sure that the current curricula include the jobs-driven model, too.

The loss of mid-wage jobs during the last recession decimated the middle class, something that Vice President Biden addresses in the introduction to the Ready to Work Initiative report. Can this program make a difference? Time will tell, but it looks like the administration is on the right track.

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