Number of Long-Term Unemployed Workers Ages 55 and Older Doubles Since 2007

Older unemployed Americans face tough job hunt. About 55 percent of jobless seniors have been unemployed for more than six months, up from 23 percent since 2007.

Jean Coyle, 67, has a new kind of ministry. The former professor had just begun a career as a Presbyterian minister in Virginia when the economic downturn forced her church to let her go in 2007.  After that, she found only temporary work.

 She relied on savings while job hunting, but at 64, had to dip into her Social Security benefits. She officially retired in 2010. For spending money, she plans to start teaching a water aerobics class to earn $40 a week.

"I'm not going to get wealthy on that," she said. "It's not really the ministry I expected to have." Coyle is among the many unemployed, older Americans who, while struggling to re-enter the workforce, have growing worries that their retirement security is at risk.

The number of long-term unemployed workers ages 55 and older has more than doubled since the recession began in late 2007. Getting back to work is increasingly difficult, according to a government report being released Tuesday. For unemployed seniors, the chances of re-entering the workforce are grim.

Experts worry that unemployed seniors face a long-term threat as the impact of lost wages compounds. In what should be their prime earning years, these older workers rely on savings, miss out on potential wages and prematurely tap into Social Security — all at a time when Americans live longer and health care and other living costs are rising.

About 55 percent of jobless seniors, or 1.1 million, have been unemployed for more than six months, up from 23 percent, or less than 200,000, four years earlier, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Tuesday.