Feb 24, 2022 - Economy

"Unretirements" are picking up, and that's good for the economy

Percentage of retirees returning to work
Reproduced from Indeed; Chart: Axios Visuals

"Unretirements" are coming back: The share of retirees returning to work is approaching levels not seen since before the pandemic.

Why it matters: The pandemic drove millions of Americans into early retirement. Getting some of those folks back to work should increase the labor supply at a time when companies are still struggling to hire.

  • "Continued strong demand for workers, and vaccinations, are allowing folks to step back into the workplace," Nick Bunker, economics research director at jobs site Indeed, tells Axios.

By the numbers: 2.8% of the workers who said they were retired in January 2021 went back into the labor force by January 2022, according to data Bunker pulled from the census bureau's Current Population Survey.

  • These numbers started picking up in the second half of 2021 and continued their climb even through Omicron.

The big picture: Retirement isn't quite what you might think. Yes, there are folks who walk away from the workforce and disappear into a happy new life golfing or doing stuff in Florida — but there has always been a small percentage of people for whom retirement doesn't quite take, or who just need some cash.

  • “We often think of retirement as people get Social Security and go on their merry way, the vast majority of Americans need to supplement their income,” Kathy Jones, chief fixed income strategist at the Schwab Center for Financial Research, told Axios earlier this year.
  • Jones said oftentimes older folks will take part-time jobs for a little extra money or just to stay social — say, working at Home Depot or driving a school bus, two extremely unappealing moves in the middle of the pandemic.
  • Corporate types might start consulting or even return to their old employer on a part-time basis, adds Bunker.

What's next: Bunker says he'll look to see what types of industries and jobs unretirees are gravitating toward. Stay tuned!

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