July 22nd, 2010
Bad Timing: More Employers Do Credit Checks As More Consumer Credit Scores Fall
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It’s a pretty vicious cycle—without a steady paycheck, unemployed Americans’ shaky financial situations can often plummet credit scores, especially since unemployment often pushes consumers to rely heavily on credit, or miss bills here and there, or even declare bankruptcy or foreclosure.
At the same time, employers are increasingly doing credit checks to screen job applicants. So if unemployment is worsening your credit, it may very well be the things that costs you a job.
According to a survey reported by CNN Money, 60% of employers currently use credit checks for at least some of their job openings, a big jump from the 35% of employers reported in 2003.
This is bad timing considering consumer credit scores have been reportedly sinking to new lows. 25.5% of consumers—nearly 43.4 million people—have a credit score of 599 or below. That means 1 in 4 consumers are considered poor credit borrowers and don’t have the credit to qualify for most loans and credit cards due to stricter lending standards. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate hovers at 9.5%, equal to 14.6 million Americans. Now, given the grim financial situations many of these unemployed Americans are facing (with nearly half of them unemployed long-term for 27 weeks or more, reports the Bureau), how many of the 14.6 million unemployed also fall into the bracket of the 43.4 million who are struggling with poor credit?
That isn’t to say that unemployment immediately leads to poor credit. But without consistent income coming in, keeping up with mortgage payments, credit card bills, and more become financial hardships that heavily impact credit scores. When it comes to perfect on-time payments to maintaining a 750 credit score, or skipping this month’s car loan payments to put food on the table, unemployed Americans are facing a rock, a hard place, and strict job-hiring practices too.
“You get in a Catch-22: You can’t pay your bills because you don’t have a job, and now you can’t get a job because you can’t pay your bills,” quotes CNN Money. While a handful of states have passed laws restricting employer’s use of credit checks in hiring decisions, many businesses claim that a credit check is pertinent to weeding through job candidates to asses “financial responsibility and financial stability”. Consumer advocates argue that job seekers are being unfairly judged on the surface of their credit standing as “a proxy for character reference”.
What do you think? Are these credit checks an acceptable aspect of the job hunt? Share your thoughts with us!
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