The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) November Employment Situation Summary showed the economy added 228,000 jobs—down slightly from the 244,000 jobs added in October (revised down from 261,000). Both the overall unemployment rate and the unemployment rate for persons 55 and older remained unchanged from October at 4.1and 3.1 percent, respectively. The number of unemployed individuals ages 55+ was also unchanged at 1.1 million and the labor force participation rate for those 55 and older increased slightly to 39.9 percent in November from 39.8 percent in October. As in October, jobs were added in professional and business services, manufacturing, and health care. The percentage of jobseekers ages 55+ who are long-term unemployed, defined as looking for work for 27 or more weeks, increased from 34.7 percent to 37 percent.
Spotlight on Employment Projections to 2026
In October 2017, the BLS released its latest employment projections for 2016 to 2026. The data cover overall job growth, labor market demographics, and industry projections. The overall employment forecast for the United States is an increase of 11.5 million workers in the decade leading up to 2026. This represents an increase from 156.1 million to 167.6 million workers, or 0.7 percent annual growth. The projected growth rate is faster than the 0.5 growth rate during the previous decade, which was strongly influenced by the effects of the Great Recession.
The demographics of the labor force are projected to grow more diverse and will be influenced by the overall aging of the population.
In 2026 the labor force participation rate is projected to decrease to 61.0 percent, down from 62.8 percent in 2016. The highest level of labor force participation, 67.1 percent, occurred in 2000. The aging population is forecast to lower overall labor force participation as more people exit the labor market. At the same time, however, the aging population will lead to greater numbers of older workers in the workforce.
The BLS predicts that the share of workers 55 and older will grow to 24.8 percent in 2026, an increase from 22.4 percent in 2016 and 16.8 percent in 2006. Slow labor force growth will also reflect, to some degree, a slowdown in the growth of the civilian non-institutional population. The annual rate of 0.9 percent population growth from 2016 to 2026 is slower than both the 1.0 percent growth from 2006 to 2016 and the 1.3 percent growth from 1996 to 2006.
New jobs will largely be in the service sector, accounting for approximately 9 out of 10 new jobs. As the population ages, health care and social assistance industries, as well as the occupations within these industries, are projected to make up a large proportion of the jobs created in the years leading up to 2026. Nearly 4.0 million jobs are projected to be added by 2026 in this sector, representing approximately one-third of all new jobs. By 2026 it will be the largest major sector of the U.S. economy. Many of these jobs will require high skills levels and at least some level of postsecondary education.
For more details, check out the November Employment Data Digest, PPI’s monthly review of job trends for those ages 55 and over.
Jen Schramm is a senior strategic policy advisor at the AARP Public Policy Institute. As part of the Financial Security Team, she identifies policy challenges and opportunities related to workers age 50 and above. Through research and analyses of emerging employment trends, she develops policy options to inform AARP’s strategy on work and jobs, including helping older workers find and retain jobs.
The Senate Finance Committee (SFC) recently passed its tax reform proposal — the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.” This bill, like the House-passed tax legislation, warrants the attention of older Americans. Not only because it increases taxes on some taxpayers 65+, but also because it would trigger rules that, barring congressional action, would result in automatic cuts to federal programs. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, those cuts would be $136 billion in fiscal year 2018, $25 billion of which must come from Medicare.
In some ways, the House and SFC tax bills are similar. For example, both bills double the standard deduction, eliminate personal exemptions, reduce individual income tax rates, eliminate certain itemized deductions, and cut the maximum corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. Both bills would also change the way tax parameters are adjusted for inflation in order to raise taxes.
In some important aspects the two bills diverge. For example, under the SFC bill, a large number of individual tax relief provisions expire after 2025 to comply with a technical Senate rule. In addition, the SFC bill would retain two current-law provisions important to taxpayers 65+: the extra standard deduction for the blind and older taxpayers and the medical expense tax deduction.
Still, the potential impact of the SFC bill on older Americans goes beyond those provisions. To understand the implications of the SFC’s tax proposals for Americans 65+, the AARP Public Policy Institute asked the Institute for Tax and Economic Policy (ITEP) to analyze the tax bill as passed by the SFC using its microsimulation tax model. The results underscore the proposal’s potential negative long-term impact on older Americans.
Like the House tax bill, many taxpayers age 65+ get some tax relief under the SFC bill. But others end up paying higher income taxes than they pay today and the number doing so rises sharply over time. That impact is in addition to the potential negative effects of cuts to programs like Medicare that would result from the tax bill—effects that the analysis does not cover.
Overall, 20 percent of taxpayers 65+, totaling 6.3 million taxpayers, would either see no change or experience a tax increase in 2019 under the SFC tax bill. Among them, 1.2 million would get a tax hike and 5.1 million would see no change. About 29 percent of taxpayers 65+ with income below $65,150 (the income limit that captures 60 percent of all taxpayers), would see no tax change or a tax hike.
As a result of sunsetting the SFC’s middle-class tax cuts, the projected number of taxpayers 65+ experiencing a tax hike would jump more than four times in eight years from 1.2 million in 2019 to 5.2 million in 2027. Add the 5.6 million older Americans who would see no tax change in 2027, and the total number of taxpayers 65+ not receiving a tax cut rises to 10.8 million. As for taxpayers 65+ with incomes below $65,150, by 2027, 36 percent would either see no change in their income taxes or experience a tax increase compared to under current law.
The bottom line is that even today’s 65+ as well as those who turn 65 by 2027 who benefit initially may end up paying higher and ever increasing taxes soon thereafter. Further, as the result of growing deficits, they may receive reduced value from Medicare or other programs that are central to older Americans’ wellbeing.
Elizabeth “Izzy” Barnett, 80, is a full-time caregiver for her husband, Bob, who has dementia. They have no children or family to help and Izzy has lost contact with friends because she is busy taking care of Bob. Izzy’s is not alone in this situation. Millions of older adults are socially isolated—in other words, they lack meaningful relationships with family and friends. Life circumstances—losing a spouse, friends, and loved ones, or retirement—put older adults at increased risk for isolation.
New AARP Public Policy Institute Report Links Social Isolation to Increased Medicare Spending
While we’ve known for a long time that isolation is associated with poorer health, no one had examined whether there is a link between social isolation and Medicare spending. Now, a new report from the AARP Public Policy Institute finds that an estimated 14 percent of older adults enrolled in Traditional Medicare (or 4 million people) are socially isolated, costing the federal government almost $7 billion in additional spending every year. And this number would be much larger if you add in people enrolled in private Medicare plans (Medicare Advantage).
We’re not sure what causes the link between social isolation and greater Medicare spending, but one possibility could be that socially isolated individuals do not have the support they need to stay healthy in their homes and communities, and instead rely on more costly hospital or skilled nursing facility care. What’s more, people who are socially isolated may be sicker before finally going to see a health care provider, driving up the cost of care.
A Start to Fixing the Problem
Social isolation is increasingly being recognized as a significant health and public health issue. Despite this, clinicians do not have a way to reliably and efficiently screen socially isolated individuals. Nor do we have public health surveillance strategies to help us understand the problem at a population level. What’s more, even if we could effectively screen individuals and collect good population-based data, we really don’t know what works in terms of alleviating isolation. Here are some strategies that federal, state, and local governments and the private sector can take to begin to address the problem:
- Fund the development of a reliable and efficient tool to screen patients for isolation;
- Establish public/private partnerships to identify and test interventions that can alleviate isolation; and,
- Recognize social isolation as an important social determinant of health as well as a critical public health problem that should be addressed through the investment of federal, state, and local government resources.
The Public Policy Institute’s report puts numbers to the reality of Izzy’s story, as well as that of millions of other older adults. Social isolation can be a hidden problem, but new evidence of the cost should encourage greater attention to the issue and support for solutions to improve the lives of older Americans.
Lynda Flowers is a Senior Strategic Policy Adviser with the AARP Public Policy Institute, specializing in Medicaid issues, health disparities and public health.
Claire Noel-Miller is a Senior Strategic Policy Adviser for the AARP Public Policy Institute, where she provides expertise in quantitative research methods applied to a variety of health policy issues related to older adults.
Thought the debate over the health law was over? Not quite. Yes, Congress has shifted its focus from health care to tax reform over the past couple months. But health care faces new threats under the latest proposed tax legislation.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as reported by the Senate Finance Committee on Nov. 16, 2017 includes a new provision that would both reduce health care coverage and increase costs for millions of Americans. Older adults ages 50-64 would be at particularly high risk under the proposal, facing average premium increases of $1,500 in 2019 as a result of the bill.
Older Adults Would Face Higher Premiums
The new provision in the Senate tax bill effectively eliminates the current health law’s requirement that most people have health insurance coverage. Lawmakers are inserting this change into the tax debate to help pay for other changes they want to make to the tax code.
Unfortunately, this change will mean higher premiums for everyone who needs to purchase coverage on the individual (non-group) health insurance market. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that premiums will increase by an average of 10 percent, thanks to the pool of people continuing to purchase health insurance coverage being less healthy on the whole.
The impact will be especially hard on older adults, who will see the largest price increases even though they already pay premiums up to three times higher than others. As a result of the tax bill, for federal Marketplace coverage in 2019*:
- Premiums for 50-year-olds could increase by an average $890, rising to $9,780 a year.
- Premiums for 55-year-olds could increase by an average $1,110, rising to $12,200 a year.
- Premiums for 60-year-olds could increase by an average $1,350, rising to $14,860 a year.
- Premiums for 64-year-olds could increase by an average $1,490, rising to $16,420 a year.
Actual premium increases will vary by state, with some states seeing much higher increases for older adults. In Maine, a typical 64-year-old could see her premiums increase an average $1,750 a year (to $19,220), while in Alaska, she could see her premiums increase an average $2,150 a year (to $23,650).
13 Million Fewer Americans Would Have Health Insurance Coverage
Eliminating the health care coverage requirement would also mean that millions more Americans will become uninsured. CBO has estimated that 4 million people under age 65 would no longer have health insurance coverage as early as 2019 if this provision is enacted. By 2027, that number would rise to 13 million people left without coverage.
Since enactment of the ACA, the uninsured rate for 50- to- 64-year-olds has fallen significantly, from 15% in 2013 to 9% in 2016. The Senate tax bill provision threatens to reverse these critical coverage gains, meaning a harmful step backward for older adults.
The bottom line – the new health care provision in the Senate tax bill will increase premiums for older adults and lead to millions more uninsured.
* Calculations by AARP Public Policy Institute
Jane Sung is a senior strategic policy adviser with AARP’s Public Policy Institute, where she focuses on health insurance coverage among adults age 50 and older, private health insurance market reforms, Medicare Advantage, Medigap, and employer and retiree health coverage.
Olivia Dean is a policy analyst with the AARP Public Policy Institute. Her work focuses on a wide variety of health-related issues, with an emphasis on public health, health disparities, and private coverage.
If you’ve been following the twists and turns of the ongoing tax reform efforts moving along in Washington, you’ve likely noticed proponents often repeating a particular theme: tax cuts for middle-class Americans. But tax policy is rarely simple, and it is important to look beyond the headlines to understand if this is really the case.
How do Americans age 65 or older fare under the proposed legislation? In an effort to understand the implications of the tax proposals for Americans 65+, particularly those within the middle class, the AARP Public Policy Institute asked the Institute for Tax and Economic Policy (ITEP) to analyze the House of Representatives bill using its microsimulation tax model (ITEP modeled the bill as initially introduced before it was modified by the Ways and Means committee).
The analysis suggests that the actual impact on older families would vary in 2018—and may even worsen over the long-term, including for many who initially benefit. Many taxpayers age 65+ do indeed get some tax relief, but others end up paying higher income taxes than they pay today. In short, everyone needs to look at their own situation to understand where they would end up at the end of the road. Relying on widely publicized averages from the headlines may lead to a big and unpleasant surprise when the tax bill for 2018 arrives.
Let’s look at some specifics for various income brackets. About half (51 percent) of taxpayers age 65+ with incomes below $23,400 would see no change in their income taxes for 2018. The other half (49 percent) in this income class would see an average income tax cut of $90 per year, or $7.50 per month.
Age 65+ taxpayers at higher income levels, meanwhile, would receive more meaningful tax relief, yet some among them would see tax increases. For example, 5 percent of older taxpayers with income between $40,750 and $65,150 (the middle income quintile for all taxpayers) would experience a tax increase of $1,270 on average in 2018.
Overall, 20 percent of taxpayers 65+ or 6.3 million would either see no change or experience a tax increase in 2018 as a result of the House tax bill (1.2 million get a tax hike and 5.1 million would see no change). Among taxpayers 65+ with income below $65,150, the percentage with no tax change or a tax hike rises to 29 percent.
Things get worse going forward. According to ITEP’s projections, by 2027, 37 percent of taxpayers 65+ with incomes below $65,150 would either see no change in their income taxes or experience a tax increase compared to under current law.
The estimated percentage of all taxpayers 65+ experiencing a tax increase would more than triple from 4 percent to 14 percent over 10 years. In other words, 4.9 million taxpayers who are in their mid-fifties or older today would be paying higher taxes in 2027 than they would have under current law. Add to this group the 5.3 million who would see no tax change, and the total number of taxpayers not receiving a tax cut rises to 10.2 million in 2027 (from 6.3 million in 2018).
A number of changes in the tax bill would drive the trend toward higher taxes for a growing share of older taxpayers. Some, such as elimination of the deduction for medical expenses, State and local income or sales taxes, and the deduction for the blind and persons age 65 and over, may have an immediate negative impact. Others, such as the new family credit, provide only temporary relief before disappearing after 2022. Yet still others, such as changes to the way tax parameters are adjusted for inflation, would continue to increase taxes indefinitely.
The bottom line is that even those who would benefit from the tax bill today may see their benefits dwindle and turn into tax increases before long.
Veterans Day provides an opportunity for all of us to thank our military veterans for their service. This time of year is also an appropriate time to increase our awareness of some of the challenges our veterans face. The AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI) wants to ensure that our nation’s veterans get the long-term services and supports (LTSS) they need, and do so while remaining in their own communities.
As the veteran population ages, the need for these services continues to increase. Almost 20 percent of people (and 42 percent of men) 65 and older are veterans, and nearly one-third of veterans live with disabilities, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Hence, the urgency to ensure that they receive information on available services—both as older individuals and as veterans—is critical.
The 2017 LTSS State Scorecard is a report and interactive tool that measures state performance for creating a high-quality system of care in order to drive progress toward improvement in services for older adults and people with physical disabilities, and their family caregivers. As part of the Scorecard project, we are producing a set of “Promising Practice” reports that share information on initiatives around the country from which other states and organizations can learn. As we approach Veterans Day, we’re pleased to announce the release of the fourth such report, “No Wrong Door: Supporting Community Living for Veterans.”
One practice the report highlights is the Veteran-Directed Home- and Community-Based Services (VD-HCBS) program, initiated in 2008 to provide veterans with greater choice and control over their LTSS—specifically to enable them to live in their communities. The program, which has served 6,570 veterans since its inception, operates in 34 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. What makes this particularly timely is that the VHA Office of Geriatrics and Extended Care, which runs the program, has announced plans for a national rollout over the next three years. This translates to an expansion of community services for veterans. We view this as a tremendous opportunity for the entire No Wrong Door system to understand the benefits of these services so that agencies can inform veterans and their families.
The VD-HCBS program, which enables vets to manage a flexible service budget and hire family, friends, and neighbors to provide care, has helped a number of participating programs lower hospital-related costs. For example, in Missouri, the VA St. Louis Health Care System documented its success in reducing emergency room visits, hospital admissions, and bed days of care as a result of the flexible spending budgets provided through VD-HCBS.
Our Promising Practice reports are here to accelerate change and improvement, and so states don’t have to reinvent the wheel. The reports include toolkits featuring resources and contacts allowing for idea sharing and possible replication.
As we release “No Wrong Door: Supporting Community Living for Veterans,” we thank and salute our veterans.