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White House combats 'cruel Catch-22' for long-term jobless

President Barack Obama announced more federal initiatives Friday to help the unemployed caught in the “cruel catch-22” of long-term joblessness.

“The longer you’re unemployed, the more unemployable you may seem,” Obama said, announcing a partnership with business executives who have set “best principles” designed to keep employers from discriminating against the jobless.

Calling the reluctance of some employers to hire a qualified worker because he or she has been out of work for many months a "cruel Catch-22," Obama pushed back against critics who say long-term federal unemployment benefits disincentivizes a vigorous job search.

“Just because you’ve been out of work for a while does not mean that you’re not a hard worker,” he said. “It just means you had bad luck or were in the wrong industry or you live in a region of the country that’s catching up a little slower than others in the recovery.”

Obama said that participating businesses – and the federal government – will be more mindful of unfair barriers, like spotty credit histories or gaps in employment, that are preventing qualified job-seekers from getting back into the workforce.

Congress failed to pass an extension of jobless benefits for about 1.3 million unemployed Americans last year.  

“Getting people back on the job faster is one of our top priorities,” Obama said. “But I have to confess, last month Congress made that harder by letting unemployment insurance expire for more than a million people.”

Friday’s announcement is the latest in Obama’s use of executive actions to bypass a Congress that has stymied many of the White House’s policy plans.