From The Grio — Are the long-term unemployed locked out of the workforce? It seems that way.

As the debt ceiling and budget battle between Republicans in Congress and President Obamarecedes, Democrats are attempting a tactical pivot to the jobs issue.

Many of us believe jobs should have been the principal legislative priority in the previous Congress, when Democrats held majority control of both houses, but instead focused on major initiatives like health care reform and bailing out American automakers.

The economy and jobs were the two most significant issues leading into last year’s midterm elections. As a result, Republicans gained control of the House, along with a record 680 state legislative seats — assuming control of 26 state legislatures. However, eight months after those legislators have taken their seats, the economy and job creation remains stagnant.

This does not bode well for the prospects of much of the jobless; people like me who have been out of the workforce for more than two years.

After watching Congress skirmish over every other policy point for the last two years, the fact that they are only now beginning to pivot to addressing jobs does not give me confidence that they will construct a solution, especially for the long-term unemployed.

We know the statistics by now: 14 million Americans are currently out of work; 6 million of those have been out of work for longer than six months, and 4.4 million for longer than a year.

Black unemployment is nearly twice the national average at 15.9 percent, and for black men,17.0 percent (from July 2011). If you are long-term jobless, your chances at finding work diminish as time goes on. Given these statistics, this renders people like me almost doomed to failure.

I have read about the employment problem constantly in the last eight months. Each time, the news gets more discouraging. If the long-term unemployed do face a stigma by the corporate workforce, what can we do to change that perception?

I have been on the market since 2007, but I have not worked since September 2008. I am currently studying for an Associates Degree in business, having made the Dean’s List last semester, and with computer technical education completed in 1998. My skills have not diminished by any negligible margin.

Yet most companies will not consider anyone who has been out as long as I have.
Even with a higher education degree, the long-term unemployment gap would be enough to disqualify me from those jobs that require it.

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