How Long Is Too Long to Be Unemployed?

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employment historyEveryone says that finding a job when unemployed is more difficult than finding one from the security of your current position, but there’s little concrete evidence to prove it.

Until now.

The American Economic Review published a study by Swedish economists Stefan Eriksson and Dan-Olof Rooth that gives some weight to the job-hunting wisdom. The Wall Street Journal reports that the researchers applied for more than 3,500 jobs using almost 8,500 fake resumes listing different states of employment, from currently employed to many months out of work.

The study found that according to the resumes, being unemployed for six months or less did not affect chances of an interview, especially for low-skilled jobs. In fact, for jobs that don’t require a college degree, a brief stint of unemployment might have even been an advantage, presumably because the applicant could start work immediately.

But if you’ve been unemployed a long time, look out: The study also found that interview requests for medium or low-skilled job applicants who had nine months or more of unemployment on their resumes declined by 20%. Resumes submitted for high-skilled jobs didn’t show the same pattern, though, possibly indicating that companies with more extensive recruiting processes don’t depend so heavily on the contents of a resume.

What If You’re a 9 Month-er?

If you’ve been out of work for the better part of a year, you’re not alone. Over three million Americans have been out of the workforce for more than a year—and this number doesn’t even account for those discouraged workers who have given up.

RELATED: 4 Inappropriate Interview Questions–and How to Answer Them

Landing that first job after a long stint of joblessness proves to be the toughest hurdle, however. Resumes in the study that showed previous, but not current, long-term unemployment had no trouble landing an interview. In fact, they received the same responses as those that never hit the nine-month mark. The study’s authors say that based on their findings, following one year out of a job with one year of work is enough to counteract the ill effects of the unemployed period.

That said, landing that first job after time out of work isn’t always easy. For help getting on the right track, check out our secrets to hiding resume flaws and our guide to jump-starting your job hunt.

  • Anonymous

    This article doesn’t help you if you are already at this point. How about some more helpful articles. This is just depressing.