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Washington Watch: Older Workers Need a Boost

The jobless rate for older Americans kept rising last year—to 7.1 percent.

Further, those laid off were out of work longer than younger workers and made up a slightly larger proportion of the “discouraged workers” category—people who have given up looking for work. Forty-two percent of those over 55 were discouraged, compared with 40 percent of those ages 25 to 54, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

AARP is calling on the government to step up efforts to help the older unemployed, including: 1. Extend a program that subsidizes 65 percent of health insurance premiums for people who lost insurance when they lost their jobs. 2. Give low-wage workers age 65 and older the same earned income tax credit that younger workers get. 3. Enforce anti-age discrimination laws in hiring and firing decisions. 4. Extend unemployment insurance.

“Older Americans are working in higher numbers than ever before, but over the past two years the unemployment rate for workers 55 and over has doubled,” said A. Barry Rand, AARP’s CEO.

“Compounding this problem,” he added in a message to Congress and at a special White House jobs summit in December, “older workers tend to be unemployed longer than other groups—on average, 36 weeks. Facing lack of health insurance coverage, rising health care costs and shattered nest eggs, with less time to recover, many older Americans need income from employment to survive.”

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