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The Thin Blue Line #BlueLivesMatter

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No End in Sight for Economic Woes
Great Depression
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 Paul Skidmore's office is shuttered, his job gone, his 18-month job search fruitless and his unemployment benefits exhausted. So at 63, he plans to file this week for Social Security benefits, three years earlier than planned.

"All I want to do is work," said Skidmore, of Finksburg, Md., who was an insurance claims adjuster for 37 years before his company downsized and closed his office last year. "And nobody will hire me."

It is one of the most striking fall-outs from the bad economy: Social Security is facing a rare shortfall this year as a wave of people like Skidmore opt to collect payments before their full retirement age. Adding to the strain on the trust are reduced tax collections sapped by the country's historic unemployment - still at 9.5 percent.

More people filed for Social Security in 2009 - 2.74 million - than any year in history, and there was a marked increase in the number receiving reduced benefits because they filed ahead of their full retirement age. The increase came as the full Social Security retirement age rose last year from 65 to 66.

Nearly 72 percent of men who filed opted for early benefits in 2009, up from 58 percent the previous year. More women also filed - 74.7 percent in 2009 compared with 64.2 percent the previous year.

Jason Fichtner, an associate commissioner at the Social Security Administration, said the weak economy has led more people who lost their jobs to retire early. However, it also has forced some people hard-hit by the recession and in need of a bigger paycheck to push back retirement and stay in the work force longer.

"But we're seeing more people taking early benefits than staying in the work force longer," Fichtner said.

With the recovery from the country's worst economic collapse since the Great Depression losing steam, some economists fear the United States is headed into a double-dip recession.  But after nearly three years of layoffs, foreclosures, cutbacks and canceled credit,  Who is going to notice?  The national unemployment rate still hovers near 10 percent, foreclosures and personal bankruptcies are on the rise, credit is locked up tight and the housing market is awash in unsold and uninhabited homes.


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