By Stephen Ohlemacher, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — Big job losses and a spike in early retirement claims from laid-off seniors will force Social Security to pay out more in benefits than it collects in taxes the next two years, the first time that's happened since the 1980s.
The deficits — $10 billion in 2010 and $9 billion in 2011 — won't affect payments to retirees because Social Security has accumulated surpluses from previous years totaling $2.5 trillion. But they will add to the overall federal deficit.
Applications for retirement benefits are 23% higher than last year, while disability claims have risen by about 20%. Social Security officials had expected applications to increase from the growing number of baby boomers reaching retirement, but they didn't expect the increase to be so large.
What happened? The recession hit and many older workers suddenly found themselves laid off with no place to turn but Social Security.
"A lot of people who in better times would have continued working are opting to retire," said Alan J. Auerbach, an economics and law professor at the University of California, Berkeley. "If they were younger, we would call them unemployed."
Job losses are forcing more retirements even though an increasing number of older people want to keep working. Many can't afford to retire, especially after the financial collapse demolished their nest eggs.
Some have no choice.
Marylyn Kish turns 62 in December, making her eligible for early benefits. She wants to put off applying for Social Security until she is at least 67 because the longer you wait, the larger your monthly check.
But she first needs to find a job.