Among those working with Sharone is Rand Ghayad, a Northeastern University researcher and visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, who has published groundbreaking work on long-term unemployment. Ghayad, who mailed 4,800 fictitious resumes and recorded employer response rates, concluded that companies frequently screen out applicants who are unemployed for more than six months.

Ghayad found that employers showed four times more interest in candidates unemployed for six months or less — even if they had less experience and fewer qualifications than those experiencing longer bouts of joblessness. Older unemployed workers, he found, were most frequently passed over, viewed as having outdated skills or as being “damaged goods.”

“I believe workers aged 55 and older are not only suffering from unemployment discrimination, but also age discrimination, which is making it nearly impossible for them to find work in this sluggishly growing economy,” Ghayad said. “Long-term unemployment among older workers should be our priority as a nation.”

Solving long-term unemployment would boost the nation’s economy, which is at risk of losing the potential, productive capacity, and spending power of millions of Americans, Sharone and Ghayad said. Many long-term unemployed ultimately drop out of the workforce, depleting retirement savings, collecting Social Security early, or turning to public assistance.