December 9, 2023

More than 2 million Americans who retired during the coronavirus pandemic and were expected to return to the labor force have declined to do so, leaving companies scrambling to lure back “excess retirees,” according to economic analysts.

A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis found that there were 1.98 million excess retirees as of September, according to Bloomberg News.

Late last year, there were 2.8 million excess retirees.

The number has recently bounced higher after dipping to 1.7 million in June, according to government data.

In the pre-pandemic period, the labor force participation rate of those over the age of 65 reached nearly 21%.

By the summer of 2021, however, as the nation was in the thick of COVID-induced lockdowns, the participation rate dipped to just over 18%.

As of late October, the number still hadn’t fully recovered, with just 19.3% of those in the labor force over the age of 65.

In the first 18 months of the pandemic, there were around 2.4 million additional Americans who retired unexpectedly — a majority of the 4.2 million who left the work force between March 2020 and July 2021, according to the St. Louis Fed.

Since then, around 1.5 million retirees re-entered the workforce.

A survey by personal investment firm T. Rowe Price found that the need for mental stimulation as well as financial reasons motivated the “unretirement” trend .

The exodus of retirement-age Americans has created a shortage in the labor market — prompting companies to scramble to fill their payrolls.

Firms are offering retirees incentives such as part-time or remote work in hopes of filling key roles.

Blue-chip companies like H&R Block, Microsoft, and Bank of America are among more than 2,500 businesses who signed an AARP pledge to facilitate an age-inclusive workforce.

Michigan, which is suffering through a severe teacher shortage, recently tweaked a law that aims to make it easier for teachers to come out of retirement and head back to the classrooms without risking their pensions.

Employers posted 9.6 million job openings in September, up from 9.5 million in August and a sign that the US job market remains strong even as the Federal Reserve attempts to cool the economy.

The September openings are down from a record 12 million in March 2022 but remain high by historical standards.

Before 2021 — when the American economy began to surge from the COVID-19 pandemic — monthly job openings had never topped 8 million.

Unemployment was 3.8% in September, just a couple of ticks above a half century low.

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