Jobs Act stalled, older jobless hit hardest

President Barack Obama stands with veterans as he speaks about how tax credits would help them find jobs, Monday, Nov. 7, in the Rose Garden at the White House. - AP PHOTO/CHARLES DHARAPAK

The latest unemployment figures show that the slowly recovering economy has had a disproportionate effect on America’s oldest workers.

According to an addendum to a study conducted by the Pew Charitable Trusts in 2010, unemployment indicators show that across the country, older workers are the ones most affected by the high unemployment rates.

The new statistics, released in Addendum November 2011 – A Year or More: The High Cost of Long-Term Unemployment, in the third quarter of 2011, at least 31.8 percent of the jobless had been out of work for a year or more. That staggering figure translates into more than 4.4 million people, or a number nearly the size of the population of Louisiana. And the statistics show this percentage has nearly doubled since the third quarter of 2009 when just 16 percent of the unemployed were out of work for a year or longer.

Mayor Michael A. Nutter, in recent remarks concerning the Rebuild America Jobs Act – which is projected to invest $50 billion in transportation infrastructure jobs – urged the U.S. Senate to approve the measure.

“The Rebuild America Jobs Act will help cities and states to invest immediately in infrastructure improvements that create jobs and will renew America’s commitment to having the best roads, bridges and rail systems in the world,” Nutter said, citing the new 40th Street Bridge reconstruction project. “President Obama understands by investing in America’s infrastructure, we are improving the livability of our neighborhoods. The 40th Street Bridge project, which is largely financed with federal dollars, will reconnect the city to the historic Fairmount Park Centennial District. This bridge is an example of a federal investment that reduces blight, increases mobility and creates jobs that cannot be outsourced.”

The Obama administration has been pushing the American Jobs Act despite GOP opposition. If approved, the measure is expected to provide hundreds of thousands of jobs, many of them in infrastructure reconstruction.

The measure was stalled in the Senate in September when Democrats were unable to overcome Republican filibusters. GOP opposition was based on provisions in the legislation that levied a surtax on incomes over $1 million. The president’s plan includes $50 billion in immediate investments for highways, transit, rail and aviation. For Pennsylvania, it would mean an immediate investment of at least $1,373 billion that could support approximately 17,900 local jobs in the transportation sector.

The Obama administration also proposes $35 billion investment to prevent layoffs of up to 280,000 teachers, while supporting the hiring of tens of thousands more and keeping police and firefighters on the job. These funds would help state and local governments avoid and reverse layoffs now, and provide $1.155 billion in funds to Pennsylvania to support up to 14,400 educator jobs.

But while lawmakers in Washington wrestle back and forth on points, America’s unemployed continue to struggle.

According to the Pew study, federal spending on unemployment benefits is now projected to total $120 billion in fiscal year 2011. Younger workers are most likely to have been laid off, but older workers have the greatest difficulty finding new employment. Department of Labor figures for October reveal that the number of unemployed did take a slight dip – from 9.1 percent to 9 percent.

Nutter said any legislator who is really serious about job creation should support the measure.

“There are few pieces of legislation where labor, business and America’s cities stand side by side in support,” he said. “Passing this legislation is critical to keeping America on the move, supporting America’s businesses and creating jobs. Any member of Congress serious about creating jobs should support passage of a long-term bill with at least this level of spending.”

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