Workers age 55+ are returning to work

Millions of older Americans have returned to work in recent months, with nearly 64 percent of adults between ages 55 and 64 working in April essentially matching the share working in February 2020 and marking a more complete recovery than most younger age groups, according to a May 19 The New York Times report. 

The return of older workers, whether by choice or financial need, has surprised economists. Americans ages 55-64 were not any more likely than younger workers to leave the workforce early in the pandemic, but economists had reason to anticipate their slower return and that vulnerability to COVID-19 would contribute to a wave of early retirements. "But there is increasing evidence that the early-retirement narrative was overblown," the Times reports, and the fastest inflation in decades has added pressure on people of all ages to return to work.

The portion of Americans reporting retirement increased sharply in spring 2020, but retirement is not irreversible. As the economy has reopened and the public health situation has improved, "unretirements" have rebounded and recently returned roughly to their pre-pandemic rate, according to an analysis of government data from Indeed Hiring Lab reported by the Times. The return of older workers has been concentrated among those in their late 50s and early 60s.

This is also an unusual time for many older job hunters, who have previously faced hardship in the job hunt due to some combination of their age or time out of the workforce. As one 62-year-old rebounder told the Times, "Every day I hear about how there aren't enough workers available. There are a lot of older workers that are being written off, or at least finding it much more difficult to get back into the workplace, who have a lot of years and things to offer."

The return of workers age 55 and older to hospitals and healthcare would be a noticeable trend given the challenges these workplaces have faced from the loss of older, more tenured employees. 


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