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February jobs report brings some cheer for older workers

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On the political front, President Obama has not done well with older people, says Jeff Jones, managing editor of the Gallup Poll in Princeton, N.J.

“Among people 50 and older, his approval rating has been in the low 40s,” says Mr. Jones. “Certainly as a group he will have to do better with them and in fact if he does better among this group, he will be a shoe-in for reelection.”

The economic concerns are more long-term. Many of the older workers who are out of work, own their own homes and are trying to avoid foreclosure. In addition, many are draining their lifesavings, including their retirement accounts, in order to buy groceries and pay their bills.

“It has been several generations since we were concerned about poverty among the nation’s elderly,” says Christine Owens, executive director of NELP, which advocates for the unemployed in Washington. “But, because of what’s happened the last several years – sustained long-term unemployment and declining housing values – we face the possibility of seeing an increase in economic hardship among older workers in fifteen or twenty years.”

Although many more older workers are getting jobs, Ms. Owens cautions that there is no indication the job surge is helping the long-term unemployed worker. “This could be people who have been out of work for shorter periods of time,” she says. “And, we don’t know what kind of jobs they are going back to – I suspect they may be going into jobs that pay less.”

In fact, despite the improved numbers over the past few months, employment specialists say the older worker still faces an uphill climb. Chicago-based outplacement specialist John Challenger of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, one of the major obstacles older workers face when looking for work is discrimination.

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