By now I am sure you have heard that there are laws being floated which will make it illegal for firms to discriminate against the unemployed when it comes to hiring decisions. Forget for the moment any literal difficulties with identifying whether this is happening, or any other objections you might have to the difficulty of implementing it.
The law’s intention is to improve the labor market opportunities for people who are currently unemployed. Let’s grant that the current unemployed are not systematically different than those people who are already employed (a very tenuous assumption). It is still the case that when employers discriminate against them, employers are doing them a service. How can that be? After all, if Wintercow Inc refuses to hire people that are unemployed, doesn’t that make it harder for the unemployed to find work.
It may be harder for them to work at Wintercow, Inc. But by hiring anyone at all, what Wintercow has done is make more jobs available elsewhere to the unemployed. In other words, it will be easier for workers to find work at Summercow, Inc. The only way that discriminating against the unemployed would make their opportunities worse is by assuming that every single employer responds by doing the same thing – a hard assumption to maintain.
As a final note, I find such anti-discrimination proposals problematic for two additional reasons.