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Job Growth Stalls

Average duration of unemployment for older workers hits 54.7 weeks

Cutbacks in government

Harry Holzer, a former chief economist at the Labor Department and a professor of public policy at Georgetown University, says he worries that job growth will be "too mild" to make progress on the labor market front.

"There are cutbacks in state and local governments, and perhaps in federal spending," Holzer says. "There's some interruption in the auto industry from the tsunami and earthquake in Japan. The housing market is worse than we thought, which weakens the construction and related sectors. You add all that up and … businesses get reluctant to add workers."

For older workers, the challenge to find a job has been consistently more difficult than for younger people.

Nearly 14 million workers were unemployed in May, but 45 percent of them — 6.2 million — had been out of work for six month or more. That's an increase of 361,000 from the previous month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

More underemployed workers

Many economists say the "underemployment rate" is a more accurate measure of the nation's job situation than the unemployment rate alone. The polling and research firm Gallup, which defines the rate as including the jobless and people who take on part-time work because they can't find full-time, said it remained at 19 percent in May.

According to the BLS, there are more underemployed workers now than in any other economic downturn in the last 30 years.

Ric Joline, 59, has been searching for a full-time job since September, when his church laid him off as an associate pastor. He gets no jobless benefits because churches are exempt from paying unemployment insurance. To stay afloat, he works part time as a substitute teacher and a swim coach at a local high school in Lancaster, Pa.

"Probably the most frustrating part of my job search has been how long it has taken," Joline says. "My wife has been working six days a week at two jobs to help keep the bills paid, and she is weary."

Each state has its own set of economic circumstances. To see how your state has fared, go to AARP's "pain index."

Next: What's the biggest threat to a sustainable recovery? >>

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