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Good News for Older Workers

Older unemployed workers saw welcome gains in the job market in September as employers expanded their payrolls by a higher than predicted 248,000 jobs. The national une

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mployment rate for people ages 55 and older fell last month from 4.6 percent to 3.9 percent, a bigger drop than the rate for workers overall, the government said.

For men ages 55 and older, the jobless rate dipped to 4 percent in September from 4.4 percent the previous month. Last year at this time their rate stood at 5.5 percent.

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Women in that age group also saw their unemployment rate slide to 3.9 percent last month from 4.7 percent in August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It had been at 5 percent at this time last year.

Overall, the unemployment rate fell from 6.1 percent to 5.9 percent in September, its lowest level since 2008. The economy has gained an average of 213,000 jobs over the past 12 months, the BLS said.

Economists said they were encouraged by the solid labor market report as the economy headed into the fall, a season typically marked by increased hiring ahead of the holidays.

“Things were looking rather bright for older workers in September,” says Sara Rix, a senior strategic policy adviser for AARP. However, “long-term unemployment remained a serious problem” for older adults out of work for at least six months.

Some 9.3 million people were unemployed in September; 32 percent were out of work for six months or more, the BLS said.

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Job growth in September was strongest in professional and business services, retail and health care.

Since the end of the recession, the economy has added 8.2 million jobs and the unemployment rate has fallen from 10 percent to 5.9 percent. The labor market is gaining momentum but still has a long way to go before it returns to historically healthy conditions, according to economists at the Washington think tank  Center for American Progress.

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