WASHINGTON -- At the beginning of the year, the White House trumpeted its effort to get business leaders to hire the long-term unemployed.
"I've been asking CEOs to give more long-term unemployed workers a fair shot at that new job and new chance to support their families," President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union address. "This week, many will come to the White House to make that commitment real."
More than 300 companies signed a pledge that they wouldn't avoid hiring anyone just because of a long jobless spell. Studies have shown that long-term unemployment has become its own obstacle to getting hired.
In June, the Labor Department announced Thursday, there were 3.1 million Americans out of work six months or longer, down 293,000 from May and a million from this time last year -- but still a historically unprecedented number. When Congress let long-term unemployment insurance die in December, it left the federal government with no policy that specifically targets the problem of prolonged joblessness.
Administration officials never said the business pledge would fill that gap and meaningfully reduce long-term joblessness; they just suggested it couldn't hurt.
So what's up with the pledge lately? Not a whole lot -- though the administration says it's a work in progress. HuffPost asked White House economic adviser Betsey Stevenson about the effort during a recent Capitol Hill event on long-term unemployment.
"We definitely see that as an ongoing process -- staying in touch with these companies, finding out what works, what didn’t work," Stevenson said. She also touted the administration's new $150 million "Ready to Work" grant program for new public-private partnerships that could reconnect unemployed Americans with jobs.
The pledge outlines some best practices for companies' human resources departments, which include avoiding anything that would discourage the long-term jobless from seeking positions and any internal barriers to considering their applications.
Walmart and McDonald's, the two biggest companies that signed the pledge, had no comment for this story.
Another senior administration official told HuffPost that the White House is "working with outside partners to follow up on the best practices and determine successes as a result of the implementation of these practices as well as more detailed guidance for businesses on implementing the best practices."
Meanwhile, long-term unemployment is still terrible. While a person's financial situation steadily deteriorates, so does that individual's physical and mental health. And the decline in the number of people jobless six months or longer is not necessarily great news. A Brookings Institution report found earlier this year that among people who'd been long-term unemployed from 2008 through 2012, about one third found jobs and one third gave up their search.