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Low jobless rates mean more opportunities for people with conviction histories.

Unemployment rates in the United States dropped from 7.9 percent in December 2012 to 3.9 percent in December 2018.Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Civilian Unemployment Rate,” This shrinking labor pool has some employers looking at an often-untapped population: people with criminal records. As Lawrence H. Summers, the Harvard economist and former secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, told the New York Times: “When the unemployment rate is lower, employers will adapt to people rather than asking people to adapt to them.”Ben Casselman, “As Labor Pool Shrinks, Prison Time is Less of a Hiring Hurdle,” New York Times, January 13, 2018.

Some companies are even finding the right employees among people still in prison and hiring them through voluntary work-release programs, such as one in Wisconsin that pays workers prevailing market wages.Ben Casselman, “As Labor Pool Shrinks, Prison Time is Less of a Hiring Hurdle,” New York Times, January 13, 2018.

A 2018 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management and the Charles Koch Institute found a growing number of companies were open to hiring people with prior convictions, including major corporations such as Delta Air Lines, Comcast, and McDonald’s.Society for Human Resource Management and the Charles Koch Institute, Workers with Criminal Records (Arlington, VA: Society for Human Resource Management and the Charles Koch Institute, 2018); and Tim Mullaney, “Why Companies Are Turning to Ex-Cons to Fill Slots for Workers,” CNBC.com, September 18, 2018. And the tech company Slack started an apprenticeship program in March for formerly incarcerated men with the goal of reducing recidivism rates.Evie Nagy, “Next Chapter: A Pilot Program Aiming to Help Formerly Incarcerated Individuals Find Work and Succeed in Tech,” Slack blog, August 29, 2018. The program, called Next Chapter, is a partnership among The Last Mile, a technology-training program for incarcerated people; the W. K. Kellogg Foundation; and FREEAMERICA.Evie Nagy, “Next Chapter: A Pilot Program Aiming to Help Formerly Incarcerated Individuals Find Work and Succeed in Tech,” Slack blog, August 29, 2018. The Last Mile, which works in seven U.S. prisons, boasts a zero percent recidivism rate.Evie Nagy, “Next Chapter: A Pilot Program Aiming to Help Formerly Incarcerated Individuals Find Work and Succeed in Tech,” Slack blog, August 29, 2018.