With unemployment lingering near its lowest levels in a decade, more employers are having difficulty filling positions. Many already are increasing wages, offering more training and lowering requirements while others are taking a closer look at candidates whose criminal record might have previously eliminated them from the hiring process.

The Society for Human Resources Management said roughly 90 percent of employers run criminal background screens as part of the hiring process. Yet a growing number of companies in industries such as construction, trucking and hospitality, are no longer ruling out candidates solely on the basis of a felony.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there were nearly 6 million unfilled jobs in the United States in May 2017. Alan Barber, director of domestic policy at the Center for Economic Policy and Research in Washington, co-authored a report on the economic costs of incarceration and said that data may "indicate some lessening of stigma and more hiring of the formerly incarcerated."

Lisa Nagele-Piazza, J.D., SHRM senior legal editor, said in the current job market, many companies may overlook otherwise excellent job applicants with an imperfect record.

"Providing a second chance to job candidates with criminal records may have benefits for candidates and companies alike … eligible records are usually related to nonviolent crimes, arrests without convictions and first offenses," Piazza said.

As estimated, 600,000 people are released every year from federal and state prisons, and a report by the National Employment Law Project said that 65 million U.S. adults have criminal records. The stigma associated with a record can be a difficult hurdle for many to obtain employment, even decades after they committed a crime.

Yet some employers indicate through hiring that convictions may not necessarily be viewed as an indication of their person's current character or their ability to perform a job. SHRM said hiring managers often consider the age of the person at the time of the crime, the type of crime, how much time has passed and the nature of the job.

Studies indicate a felon's ability to find work can significantly reduce the chance for repeat offenses, and government initiatives are encouraging more employers to consider those with criminal records. 

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