New York Times: Early pandemic retirees have largely returned to work

While the COVID-19 pandemic caused many seniors to retire before they originally planned, many are returning to work in light of current economic realities

In spite of seniors retiring early at record levels in the early days of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the senior cohort has recovered virtually all of its losses in the American workforce seen since early 2020 with much of these returns to work being driven by economic necessity. This is according to a story published this week by the New York Times.

“Whether by choice or financial necessity, millions of older Americans have [returned to work] in recent months,” the story reads. “Nearly 64% of adults between the ages of 55 and 64 were working in April, essentially the same rate as in February 2020. That’s a more complete recovery than among most younger age groups.”

The trend is described as being “surprising” to economists particularly due to the higher level of danger that COVID-19 presents for older people, however the dominant early retirement narrative that began to emerge by the summer of 2020 could have been “overblown” based on these signs, the story says, though the pandemic also had negative impacts on aspects of retirement at that time.

“The fastest inflation in decades has added to the pressure on people of all ages to return to work,” the story reads. “More recently, so has the turmoil in financial markets, which has taken a bite out of retirement savings. But even some people who could retire are choosing to return to work as the pandemic ebbs.”

The story features profiles of seniors who have returned to work for a number of different reasons. One profiled senior returned out of financial necessity, while another did so because of a realization that a post-working lifestyle was not fulfilling.

“Older workers weren’t any more likely than younger workers to leave the labor force early in the pandemic,” the story reads. “But economists had reason to think they might be slower to return. Unemployed workers in their 50s and 60s typically have a harder time finding jobs than their younger counterparts, because of ageism and other factors. And unlike after the 2008-9 recession, when depressed housing prices and high debt levels left many people with little choice but to keep working, in this crisis prices of both homes and financial assets kept rising, providing a financial cushion to some people nearing retirement age.”

While the share of Americans reporting themselves as “retired” rose sharply in the spring of 2020, retirement does not need to be a permanent decision for someone who has the opportunity to return to the workforce, the story explains. Analysis of government data by the Indeed Hiring Lab reveals that so-called “unretirements” have rebounded virtually back to the rate they were at prior to the pandemic, the story says.

Read the story at the New York Times.

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