Aging Committee Hearing Focuses on Reducing Long-Term Unemployment Among
May 15, 2012
Today, Senate Special Committee on Aging Chairman Herb Kohl
convened a hearing on the growing problem of long-term unemployment
among older workers.
“While many Americans were hit hard by this recession, many older
workers continue to feel its lingering effects,” Kohl said. “Although
older workers were less likely to lose their jobs than their younger
counterparts, once they did, they struggled more to find work again.”
According to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) reportmade
public at the hearing, the number of long-term unemployed workers aged
55 and older has more than doubled since the recession began in late
2007. About 55 percent of unemployed older workers, or 1.1 million, have
been unemployed for more than six months, up from 23 percent, or less
than 200,000, in 2007.
“Left unchecked, long-term unemployment among older workers is a problem
that will continue to grow as our workforce grays,” Kohl said. “Only
four years from now, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that nearly
one in four workers will be over the age of 55.”
GAO’s Director of Education, Workforce and Income Security group Charles
Jeszeck told the committee that long-term unemployment among older
workers significantly reduced retirement income, particularly for those
with defined contribution retirement plans. He said the report showed
that these older workers often had to use their retirement savings and
begin drawing on Social Security before they were old enough to receive
According to the GAO report, “These workers also have the most
retirement income to lose by becoming unemployed.”
The hearing also highlighted an innovative Connecticut-based program
called Platform to Employment that works individually with those out of
work older workers to ensure they have updated skills to thrive in
today’s economy. The program, started by witness Joseph Carbone,
partners with local businesses to place these workers into internships.
So far, 70 percent of those internships have turned into jobs.
“Bringing the long term unemployed to a platform of readiness,
emotionally and professionally, is critical as the job market recovers,”
hearing included testimony from Sheila Whitelaw, an older worker from
Philadelphia who described her struggle against long-term unemployment.
“At this point, I don’t really expect to retire, even if I am able to
find a job. I plan to keep working as long as I am physically able, and
I am blessed to be in good health,” Whitelaw said. “Contrary to what
many employers think, age is just a number. My age does not define my
ability, negate my work experience, or reduce my dedication to the job
Kohl also announced his signing on as a cosponsor of the Protecting
Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, a bill authored by Senators
Harkin and Grassley that is aimed at restoring the rights of older
workers to pursue claims of age discrimination.