WASHINGTON — The number of Americans receiving food stamps in March topped 40 million for the first time as the jobless rate hovered near a 26-year high.
Recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program subsidies for food purchases totaled 40.2 million, up 21 percent from a year earlier and 1.2 percent more than in February, the Department of Agriculture said yesterday in a statement on its website. The number of recipients has set records for 16 straight months.
Food aid climbed as the unemployment rate stayed at 9.7 percent in March for a third straight month, near levels last seen in 1983, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rate rose to 9.9 percent in April. Jobless numbers for May will be released tomorrow.
Food stamp use will rise as joblessness persists and the government tries to get more eligible families onto assistance, the USDA said.
An average of 40.5 million people, more than an eighth of the population, will get food stamps each month in the year that began Oct. 1, according to White House estimates. The figure is projected to rise to 43.3 million in 2011.