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The Unemployment Crisis for Younger Workers

issue brief

The Unemployment Crisis for Younger Workers

By Diana Furchtgott-Roth May 15, 2012

A new GAO report recommends that Congress offer temporary wage and training subsidies to employers who hire older workers who have experienced long-term unemployment; that Congress eliminate the requirement that Medicare is the secondary payer for workers covered by employer-provided health insurance; that Congress expand job search and training programs for older workers; and that Congress compensate older workers for accepting lower-paying, full-time jobs.

This concern is misplaced, because it is younger workers, not older workers, that have borne the brunt of the employment losses during the recession.

Since 2000 the labor force participation rates of workers 55 and over have been rising steadily, whereas the labor force participation rates of workers aged 16 to 24 and workers aged 25 to 54 have been declining. The biggest decline in labor force participation rates can be observed for workers aged 16 to 24. Over the past ten years employment has increased among Americans 55 and over by 8.9 million. At the same time, it has declined by 3.1 million in the 25 to 54 age group, and by 313,000 among those aged 20 to 24 (see Figure 1).

Figure 2 shows how the labor force participation rate of seniors has increased by 5.7 percentage points from 2002 to 2011, yet declined in other age groups.

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