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Jobless Rate Sticks at 9.1 Percent

But for older men and women, rate edges down, duration of joblessness goes up

Older workers, labor union members and others have joined the movement to protest a downbeat economy, a tax system they deem unfair and a government that they say has failed to punish those responsible for causing America's financial crisis.

In Washington Friday, protesters carried signs and demanded more accountability among financial institutions and more jobs for Americans.

Obama presses for jobs bill

At a news conference Thursday, President Obama urged lawmakers to pass his $447 billion jobs bill, which he unveiled almost a month ago.

He criticized Republicans for opposing the measure and reiterated what seemed to be an emerging theme in his re-election bid — that he has worked to improve the jobs situation but Republican opposition has thwarted his efforts.

Republicans say that federal programs don't work as engines of job growth and that Washington can help by reducing spending and deficits and holding taxes down.

The continuing weak jobs market was reflected in other economic news released this week. According to a report Wednesday by the Chicago outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, U.S. employers said they planned to lay off 115,730 workers in September, the highest number in more than two years. The planned cuts were more than double the 51,114 announced in August.

Most of the cuts were from military cutbacks as part of the U.S. Army's troop reduction plan and from the financial sector.

So far this year, employers have said they planned to shed 479,064 jobs, a 17 percent jump from the same time last year, the report said.

In other news, private sector payrolls increased by 91,000 in September, according to the Automatic Data Processing payroll firm. Small businesses hired the most workers at 60,000 compared with 36,000 for medium-sized businesses, according to ADP. Large-business employment fell by 5,000.

What about home prices?

Meanwhile, a report released this month and compiled from responses of 111 economists, real estate experts, investment and market strategists, showed that home prices were expected to grow by an annual average rate of 1.1 percent through 2015. The report was released this month by financial technology firm Macromarkets.com and research firm Pulsenomics.

Economists say lower mortgage rates are unlikely to do much to boost the housing market when half of all mortgage borrowers don't have the home equity needed to refinance.

The lack of jobs and income growth, along with falling 401(k) values and the deepening European fiscal crisis, apparently led consumers to pull back on spending. Without strong sales, businesses won't hire additional staff, analysts said.

Carole Fleck is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.

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