Five million Americans are among the long-term unemployed--those without a job for 27 weeks or longer--according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Another 7.3 million are looking for work, while the unemployment rate sits at 7.9 percent. Numbers aside, individual stories illustrate how America is affected. To see how joblessness hits home, Yahoo News asked unemployed workers to share their job-hunting stories. Here's one.
FIRST PERSON | My name is Don Gross. I'm 53 and live in San Diego.
Following a divorce, which occurred at the time of the market crash, I collected 99 weeks of unemployment while looking for comparable work and pay in the fields of my former employment. I was the CEO and co-owner of a medical billing corporation.
During unemployment, I used my credit cards to pay for everything after my benefits and savings ran dry, and soon I was unable to pay the minimum due on my cards. I eventually stopped paying them altogether. I was forced to sell my condo for $40,000 less than I paid for it. I have been out of work now for more than three years, and my credit card debt is more than $120,000 -- and seriously delinquent.
Recently, when applying for jobs as an administer or aide in home health care, employers showed interest in my ability and background. They asked for my Social Security number and driver's license number so they can run a background check. I was hopeful. Companies who ran my background check found no criminal activity, but always replied in the same manner:
We appreciate your interest in our company. However, you are no longer being considered for this position. We hope you will consider us again in the future and wish you the best in your job search.
I have received this message in the final stages of the hiring process more than six times in the past eight months -- always after running my background check.
I went to a home health care company that was hiring, and I spoke with the head of personnel prior to filling out an application. I asked if credit was a factor in the decision-making process; I told them about my credit problems and how much I owed.
I was shocked by the answer; he told me, off the record, that my work history was great and even without any criminal history, it wasn't possible that he could ever hire me because of my credit history. He also said, if I had applied, that his final response would have been the same as other companies' responses. Although, by law, they cannot refuse employment for credit scores, every position has numerous applicants and the ones with questionable credit or background issues were simply tossed out as a matter of practice. Even if he wanted to keep me as a final consideration, top management would not allow him to hire me.
I now believe it isn't possible to find employment, except for minimum wage, and even those are limited because of the new age of background checks prior to employment. This is an illegal practice by employers, but they don't have to disclose why you are not being hired.
Greed by investment banks and mortgage companies created the crisis, and yet when you can't pay them for the credit card debt you desperately used to survive, those credit issues won't allow you to become employed because of background information. Their greed took your equity and your home away; then it took your job away; then it ruined your credit; and finally it made you unemployable.
How long will it be before Congress realizes this injustice and refines the information an employer can see? Credit history should never be a prerequisite or even considered when hiring.