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Job Growth Stalls

Average duration of unemployment for older workers hits 54.7 weeks

More long-term joblessness

John Challenger, CEO of the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, says that long-term joblessness is perhaps the biggest threat to a sustainable recovery.

"If we cannot find a way to get these people back on payrolls, the costs to the economy will be significant," he says, "not only in terms of decreased consumer spending, but in increased government spending on social safety net programs, retraining programs and other programs."

In a monthly survey by Challenger's firm, employers said in May that they planned to slash 37,135 jobs, or 2 percent more than what they announced for April. The planned layoffs were largely driven by budget-crunched state and local governments and by the nonprofit sector.

Meanwhile, another survey conducted by the payroll processing firm Automatic Data Processing Inc. showed private-sector employment growth falling. It rose by just 38,000 in May, a fraction of forecasts, after expanding by 177,000 in April.

And in yet another discouraging report on the economy, new claims for unemployment benefits fell slightly last week but were still high: 422,000 people filed in the week that ended May 28. It was the eighth week that new applications for benefits surpassed 400,000, the government reported Thursday. Economists say new jobless claims usually are below 400,000 when the economy is growing and payrolls are expanding.

Carol Ventresca, executive director of the nonprofit Employment for Seniors in Columbus, Ohio, says she and her counselors try to motivate her nearly 1,200 clients to "get out of the house and network."

"It is taking folks a long time to find employment," she says. "People are scrambling and taking anything they can get — part-time when they need full-time, and so on. Volunteering to increase your professional skills is critical. If you have an opportunity to help yourself and give back to the community, that's even better."

Carole Fleck is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.

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