President Obama signed a memo Friday instructing federal agencies to adopt new hiring practices aimed at ensuring that they do not discriminate against people who have been unemployed for long periods of time.

Speaking at the White House, Obama announced that 300 private businesses also had agreed to adopt a series of "best practices" to better assess the skills of those workers, in hopes of hiring some back into the workforce.

"It's a cruel Catch-22: The longer you're unemployed, the more unemployable you seem," Obama said, flanked by Vice President Biden in the East Room. "This is an illusion but one that unfortunately we know statistically is happening."

Obama's announcement aimed to build momentum for his pledge during his State of the Union address Tuesday that he would use executive authority that does not require congressional approval to try to boost the economy. The initiative included a $150 million commitment from the Department of Labor for a new grant competition for program for public-private partnerships to tackle the problem of the long-term unemployed.

The president made his remarks as Congress continues to deliberate over whether to renew a long-term unemployment insurance program for 1.6 million people that expired this year. Lawmakers have not agreed on how to fund an extension, which could cost up to $24 billion this year.

"Giving up on the unemployed creates a drag on the economy we cannot tolerate," Obama said. "While Congress decides whether or not to extend unemployment insurance for these Americans, we're going to go ahead and act."