Washington Post: Many pandemic retirees are now returning to work, data shows

Diminishing pandemic concerns and additional workplace flexibility practices are bringing people back into the workforce

Early retirements by older Americans notably increased during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, but new data from the U.S. Labor Department indicates that millions of those retirees are returning to work, according to reporting by the Washington Post.

“An estimated 1.5 million retirees have reentered the U.S. labor market over the past year, according to an analysis of Labor Department data by Nick Bunker, an economist at Indeed,” the story reads. “That means the economy has made up most of the extra losses of retirees since February 2020, a Washington Post analysis shows.”

With pandemic concerns diminishing and more workplaces instituting remote work policies to attract workers in a very active labor market, inflation is playing a role for those choosing to return to work as living costs have risen materially. This problem is compounded for some seniors by the inability of fixed incomes to keep up with inflation, the reporting says.

“The April jobs report to be released Friday is expected to show more workers, generally, rejoining the labor market, but the strong return of retirees is considered somewhat unexpected and even fortunate considering the record 11.5 million job openings in March,” the story reads.

Jerry Munoz — a 64-year-old employee with a San Diego-based pharmaceutical company — told the Post that the additional safety he feels from being vaccinated and boosted pairs well with the extra pay he receives from his new position as a safety consultant. That change in their fortunes allowed him and his wife to purchase an investment home.

“COVID made me think about a lot of things and I felt like I was wasting my skills and my knowledge,” he told the Post. “I told my wife that as long as I’m healthy enough, I’ll probably work another two years.”

In the 18 months between March 2020 and September 2021, approximately 2.4 million more Americans retired than was expected for that period of time. This makes up the majority of the 4.2 million people that left the workforce during that time, according to Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Senior Economist Miguel Faria-e-Castro.

“The percentage of retirees returning to work has picked up momentum in recent months, hitting a pandemic high of 3.2% in March, according to Indeed,” the Post reports. “In interviews with nearly a dozen workers who recently ‘un-retired,’ many said they felt comfortable returning to work now that they’ve gotten the coronavirus vaccine and booster shots. Almost all said they’d taken on jobs that were more accommodating of their needs, whether that meant being able to work remotely, travel less or set their own hours.”

Read the story at the Washington Post.

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