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The unemployment rate may be slowly going down, but there is one number that seems to keep going up: the number of Americans who have been out of work for six months or longer.

The number of long-unemployed individuals increased from 5.1 million to 5.4 million last month, according to CNNMoney.com  As the number continues to climb, some economists worry it will result in a permanent jump in the unemployment rate.

Economists are split on the reasons for this epidemic.  Some believe it’s simply due to low demand and will get better with time. But others feel it is more of a “structural” problem due to a gap between the skills required in today’s available jobs and the skills the unemployed candidates possess.

Whatever the reason, the longer these individuals stay unemployed, the less desirable they will be to employers and the harder it will be for them to find a job.  ”Unemployed discrimination” is still alive and well despite some lawmakers’ attempts to stop it.

The reason employers are reluctant to hire someone who has been out of work a long time is because they believe the person must not be a very good worker.  But due to the recession, many people found themselves unemployed through no fault of their own. Some of them really are star candidates. The key is getting employers to give them a chance. So how can they do that?

You can help them by offering these candidates to clients on a contract-to-direct basis. This allows your clients to “try-before-they-buy.” If the candidate doesn’t meet expectations, the client can end the assignment and try someone else. But if the candidate proves to be a good find, the company can then extend a direct-hire offer (and pay you a conversion fee!)

The plight of the long-term unemployed is not a simple problem with a simple answer.  But you may be able to help in a small way by convincing your clients to give some of these workers a chance.

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