Americans are facing the greatest economic challenges since the Great Depression. In September 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the unemployment rate was 9.6 percent, with 14.8 million people unemployed. At the peak of the recession, more than one in 10 Americans was unemployed—the highest level since 1983. More than two-fifths of those who are unemployed (42 percent) have been jobless for six months or more, making it more difficult for them to reenter the ever-changing job market.
Homeownership, which has traditionally been the major source of wealth accumulation in the United States, has become a liability for many Americans. As property values have plummeted, many Americans find their mortgages "under water"—they owe more on their mortgage than their house is worth. In 2009, a record 2.8 million properties had a mortgage in foreclosure.
The recession has also hit people's wallets. The Census Bureau reported that in 2009, the nation's poverty rate was 14.3 percent, up from 13.2 percent in 2008. The number of poor Americans, at 43.6 million, is at its highest level since poverty numbers were first published more than 50 years ago. Since the onset of the recession, there has been a steep rise in the population receiving food stamps, unemployment benefits, and other federal and state benefits, which has helped dampen the impact of job losses and lower earnings on family finances. However, for young adults who are just entering the job market, the effects of the recession are expected to linger for many years to come.
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