"Hiring decisions frequently involve the exercise of independent, subjective judgment about a prospective employee's likely future performance," he said in a statement.
And unlike other characteristics that employers are generally banned from considering, such as an applicant's race, religion or gender, "the circumstances surrounding a person's unemployment status may, in certain situations, be relevant to employers when selecting qualified employees," he said.
Business groups say that no-unemployed-applicants-need-apply ads represent a tiny fraction of the millions of job openings nationwide each year.
One 2011 listing that got city lawmakers' attention — it required that applicants for an opening as a New York legal secretary "must be currently employed" — was mistakenly written that way, said William Alcott, a lawyer for the firm that posted it, McGuireWoods LLP.
"It was not our policy then and isn't our policy now," he said this week.
Like other measures that have passed, the New York City one would ban help-wanted ads that say unemployed applicants won't qualify. It would also more generally prohibit employers from refusing to hire candidates because they are out of work.
But New York's measure would go further than the others by letting rejected applicants sue employers for damages.
Companies see it as government meddling and "creating another basis for unmerited lawsuits against employers," said Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, an influential business group.
President Barack Obama proposed in 2011 to make it illegal to refuse to consider unemployed applicants.
New Jersey in 2011 became the first state to outlaw the practice. The state Labor Department has gotten one complaint so far and cited a company for an ad that excluded jobless applicants; the case is not yet resolved, the agency said this week.
Oregon and the District of Columbia followed suit last year, while 15 other states considered similar proposals, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed such a measure in California last fall, indicating he wasn't happy with changes made to it.
Associated Press writer Rema Rahman contributed to this report from Trenton, N.J.
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