By Ann Sanner, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — A million and a half more Americans volunteered to help with such activities as raising money, collecting food and tutoring children during the span of a year ending in September 2009, a period marked by job losses and a lousy economy.
About 63.4 million people age 16 and older volunteered at least once between September 2008 and September 2009, according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That's about a 1.6 million increase compared with the 61.8 million people who helped their communities in 2008, but not as many as the 65.4 million who lent a hand in 2005.
A little more than one in four Americans volunteer, the report showed.
David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's in New York, said people who are cutting back on their cash donations are contributing in other ways, whether it's in the soup kitchen, in the classroom or around the neighborhood.
"You don't feel as rich, so you're giving time instead of money," Wyss said.
The number of hours that people spent volunteering with their churches, hospitals and other organizations varied depending on their age. Volunteers aged 65 and older typically worked about 90 hours during the year, while those 25 to 34 years old typically volunteered 36 hours annually.
Perhaps not surprising, the majority of the increase in the number of volunteers came from those who were employed part time.
"In this time of economic distress, the need for service and volunteering is more critical today than ever before, and Americans are responding," said Stephen Goldsmith, board chairman of the Corporation for National and Community Service.
The BLS and the Census Bureau collected the data for the report in partnership with the government-run community service corporation, which administers volunteer programs including Senior Corps and AmeriCorps.