- - Monday, August 11, 2014

Recent reports indicate that Congress is unlikely to pass the unemployment-benefits extension. Unfortunately, this development does not signal improvement for the long-term unemployment crisis, which has grown increasingly complex. Now perhaps more than ever we need to consider unconventional approaches to addressing this growing problem.

Nonprofits have always responded in times of national crisis, and America’s struggle with long-term unemployment should be no exception. While many look to industries such as manufacturing and construction for job creation, few know the nonprofit sector is the third-largest employment sector in the nation and has continued to create jobs when other sectors have seen major attrition.

From 2007 to 2010, at the height of the recession, nonprofit employment increased by 4 percent and wages increased by 6.5 percent. In addition, nonprofit jobs were added at a rate of 1.9 percent per year. In this same period the for-profit sector saw a decrease of 8.4 percent in employment and an 8 percent decrease in wages.

In addition to the traditional role nonprofits play in providing safety-net services to the long-term unemployed, nonprofits should also be looked at as a valid source of employment for these individuals. Nonprofits have an opportunity to demonstrate much-needed leadership on this issue and should be encouraged to commit to equal-opportunity policies for hiring the long-term unemployed. Nonprofit leaders can influence funders to invest more meaningfully in talent acquisition and development programs for the long-term unemployed. Business leaders and nonprofit donors can also play a role by contributing to nonprofits committed to hiring practices that help to address our nation’s unemployment crisis.

While underrecognized, the potential impact of the nonprofit sector on long-term unemployment is huge. It’s time for nonprofits, government, businesses and lawmakers alike to get serious about connecting jobs to those who so desperately need them.

LISA BROWN MORTON

President and CEO

Nonprofit HR

Washington