October's unemployment report was a mixed bag, with the overall jobless rate dipping to 9 percent from 9.1 percent in September. For workers over 45, the jobless rate stayed even at 6.6 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Other job numbers held steady or showed slight signs of improvement, giving economists and job seekers hope that the economy is moving in a positive direction.
"The underlying momentum of the economy is better now than we thought it was a few months ago," Augustine Faucher, director of macroeconomics at Moody's Analytics tells The New York Times. "We're doing OK, even if we're not doing great. The odds of a double-dip recession are lower, at least."
Midcareer and older workers had more reason than most to cheer. Here's a snapshot of the October report:
Congress Set to Wrangle Over Extending Jobless Benefits: The House on Thursday introduced a bill to extend current federal unemployment benefits through 2012 and help states fund similar programs. Last year, Congress approved extending jobless benefits to 99 weeks to cover the country's long-term unemployed. Extending benefits could cost the government $45 billion and states $7 billion for next year. But without the extension, 2 million people could be without unemployment checks by February and 6 million by the end of 2012, according to a Wall Street Journal report. "We're facing a potential man-made human disaster," Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan tells the newspaper.
Obama Jobs Bill Stuck in Congress: It's been close to two months since President Obama introduced the American Jobs Act, a $447 billion plan to jumpstart the economy through tax breaks, business incentives and spending on public works. Several measures of the plan would help people over 40, especially those who've lost jobs. After his initial efforts to get the entire plan passed, the president broke it into separate measures. Earlier this week, Republicans in the Senate blocked part of the jobs plan that would allocate $60 billion in federal funds to bridges, highways and other transportation fix-it projects, according to Reuters.
Hiring for the Holidays: Among companies topping the list of holiday hirers: Target plans to add 92,000 seasonal jobs, Macy's is adding 78,000, and Toys R Us is adding 40,000, according to AOL. FedEx plans to hire 20,000, according to AOL, and UPS will add 4,000 workers, according to Forbes. In all, 30 percent of retailers are planning to hire extra help for the holidays, according to a Harris Interactive survey for CareerBuilder, the jobs website. A third of employers polled said they'll continue to hire through November, with more than half (53 percent) saying they'll pay $10 an hour or more, and 14 percent planning to pay $16 an hour or more. According to several reports, retailers plan to hire about the same number of seasonal employees as last year, or approximately a half million. That's well ahead of hiring during 2008 and 2009, but below pre-recession levels.
More on Where the Jobs Are: While many industries aren't adding permanent workers, health-care providers remain on a hiring spree. Health-care providers added 57,000 jobs in September and October, and over the past year have created a total of 313,000 positions, according to government reports. Work force analysts predict the current shortage of registered nurses will stretch through 2025 and say demand for medical, dental and pharmacy assistants is also high. For more on industries that are hiring, see my recent SecondAct story, 10 Hot Jobs for Career Changers.
LinkedIn Groups for Job Seekers: LinkedIn, the business-minded online network, is home to a growing number of virtual social circles for people in their 40s and older interested in new careers in the nonprofit world. One such group is Encore Careers, which is run by Civic Ventures, the Bay Area think tank on baby boomers, work and social purpose. The Encore Careers group has close to 1,300 members. Other LinkedIn Groups focused on nonprofit jobs include Bridgestar, Jobs for Change, and Opportunity Knocks. Some groups reserve the right to approve members; others are open to anyone. Once they're in, members of LinkedIn Groups can share status updates with each other, use group-only message boards, and browse group-specific job openings.
Rules of the Networking Game: You don't have to be pushy or obnoxious to be a good business networker. Effective networkers are anything but, says Kelly Eggers on Fins.com, a Wall Street Journal finance industry website. She offers a list of networking tips including this one: Don't whine. "Complaining in general has no place in networking -- whether it's about unemployment, how tough your job is, or how bad your former employer was," Eggers writes. Do listen, hand out business cards and know when to leave. And don't forget to follow up.
Website of the Week: The job board for boomers now known as Workforce50.com started 36 years ago as SeniorJobBank, an Orlando agency that matched employers with older workers. Today, the site lists jobs from around the country and also offers career education and training information for people considering a job change.
Last Word: "My encore career has proved incredibly rewarding; I've never felt more focused or alive." --ex-Paramount Pictures chairman Sherry Lansing on Huff/Post50 about helping launch Encore Career Institute, an online school for boomers