Washington A surge of early retirements and a decline in payroll tax revenue caused by the recession have begun to cut deeply into Social Security’s surplus funding.
Led by aging baby boomers and older workers frustrated by the tough job market, record numbers of eligible Americans started receiving Social Security retirement benefits in 2009.
According to government figures, more than 2.7 million new beneficiaries were added to the rolls in 2009, up 20 percent from 2008. The one-year increase was the largest since at least 1975.
“Much of that surge is coming from the weak economy,” said Richard Johnson, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. “The fact that many people can’t find work is forcing them to retire and collect benefits early.”
Annual jobless rates for men and women age 55 and older were higher in 2009 than at any time since the government started collecting the data in 1948, Johnson said.
That forced many to claim retirement benefits at 62, their first year of eligibility, instead of waiting to collect at the full retirement age of 66.