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Income Security: Older Adults and the 2007-2009 Recession

GAO-12-76 Published: Oct 17, 2011. Publicly Released: Oct 18, 2011.
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The recession of 2007 to 2009 has been the most severe in this country since the 1930s. After adjusting for inflation, gross domestic product declined by 5.1 percent and the national unemployment rate peaked at 9.5 percent. While the recession officially ended in June 2009, our economy has experienced a weak recovery, with unemployment still above 9 percent. While the recession has affected all age groups, older adults--particularly those close to or in retirement--may face a greater burden because they may not have the same opportunities to recover from its effects. For example, older adults--generally those 55 and older--may have insufficient time to rebuild their depleted retirement savings due to sharp declines in financial markets and home equity, and they may experience increased medical costs. Also, as our previous work has shown, older workers are less likely to be unemployed than workers in younger age groups, but when older workers lose a job they are less likely to find other employment. These challenges have intensified older adults' concerns about having sufficient savings now and adequate income throughout retirement. Given your interest in the status of older adults and the effect of the recent recession, we examined the following: (1) What changes have occurred in the employment status of older adults, generally those 55 and older, with the recession? (2) How have the incomes and wealth of older adults in or near retirement changed with the recession? (3) What changes have occurred in the costs of medical care, the purchasing power of Social Security benefits, and mortality rates for older adults in recent years?

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AssetsElderly personsEmploymentIncome statisticsLabor statisticsOlder workersPart-time employmentPensionsPrices and pricingRecessionRetirementSocial security benefitsUnemployment ratesPublic health emergencies