WASHINGTON — Chief executives from 21 companies gathered at the White House on Friday, bringing with them a pledge not to unfairly weed out the long-term unemployed in their hiring process.
About 300 businesses — including Apple Inc., eBay Inc., Gap Inc., Pacific Gas & Electric Corp., 21st Century Fox Inc., Walt Disney Co. and Magic Johnson Enterprises — signed the document, which promises not to discriminate against job applicants solely because they have been out of work for extended stretches.
The companies also agreed to ensure that their practices don't "intentionally or inadvertently disadvantage individuals from being considered for a job based solely on their unemployment status," according to the pledge.
The promise was part of a White House effort to draw attention to the plight of the jobless as President Barack Obama continues to push Congress to extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed. Obama addressed the executives at the event, saying that these job seekers need a "fair shot."
"They just need that chance, somebody who will look past that stretch of unemployment," Obama said. "They just need employers to realize it doesn't reflect at all on their abilities or their values; it just means they've been dealing with the aftermath of this really tough job market."
Long-term unemployment has become a persistent legacy of the economic crisis.
As the private sector added 2.2 million jobs over the past year, the short-term unemployment rate fell to its pre-recession average. But the long-term unemployment rate remains more than double the average before the financial crisis, according to a White House report on Friday.
As of December, nearly 4 million Americans had been unemployed for 27 weeks or more, and 2.6 million of them had been searching for jobs for a year or more, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The White House did not have an estimate on how many more people might find work under the new initiative to change hiring practices.