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Road to Financial Recovery Could Be Long One for Many Seniors

Recession left many 50+ jobless, with little savings

On a national level, the economy is slowly rebounding from the depths of the recession, but for some people 50 and over, a sense of recovery has yet to take hold — and it could be years before it does.

AARP Foundation members recognize the road to recovery for unemployed people over 50 + is harder than for many- senior woman looking out the window

An AARP Public Policy Institute survey of people 50 and over found most are not confident they can find a good job soon. — Photo by Camille Tokerud/Getty Images

One economic indicator, the national monthly unemployment rate, is starting to paint a brighter picture. From a high of 10 percent in October 2009, it’s moved generally lower — with a few upward bounces along the way — and sat at 8.3 percent in February 2012. That’s a great improvement, but still much higher than the 4.7 percent of November 2007, right before the recession began.

For people 55 and over, the monthly unemployment rate hit a high of 7.0 percent in June 2009, and had fallen to 5.9 percent in February 2012. But this is well above the level in December 2007, at the start of the recession, when the rate for this age group was 3.2 percent.

Despite the falling unemployment rate, approximately 1.9 million people 55 or older remain unemployed. On average, they’ve been out of work for 54.1 weeks — just over a year. For many, it’s still very difficult to find a job.

“Those in a long-term unemployment situation are still struggling,” said Emily Allen, vice president for income and financial stability programs at AARP Foundation, the charitable affiliate of AARP. “That’s pretty prevalent across the board, whether they’re with AARP Foundation WorkSearch or another organization helping seniors.”

In recent years, demand has surged for AARP Foundation’s work-related services and programs. “Particularly with our SCSEP (Senior Community Service Employment) program, our wait lists are definitely in the dozens and often in the hundreds of people waiting to get in the program. There’s not enough funding to help all in need,” said Allen.

In general, people 50-plus who were unemployed at some point during the recession will probably need a long time to get back on their feet.

“When people have lost jobs and been out of work for a year or two, it takes on average five to seven years to regain the stability they had before, even once they become reemployed,” explained Allen.

Next: Recession sapped the confidence of those 50 and over. »

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