The pandemic is pushing some older workers into retirement early
Share Now on:
The labor force participation rate is falling. That means there are more people out of work who aren’t looking for a job. That could be due to a lack of available openings, childcare issues at home — or folks who have simply decided to retire early.
Chuck Harris was a physicians assistant in Jackson, Wyoming. He’d planned to wrap up his career later this year, shortly after his 66th birthday, but when the pandemic closed his facility, he made an early exit.
“I’ve kind of backed into retirement, but not intentionally,” Harris said.
Since February, the number of employed workers over age 55 has dropped by 7%, and many will never return, said Richard Johnson at the Urban Institute
“If you lose your job, then it’s much more difficult often to get back into the workforce,” Johnson said.
During the Great Recession, he found it took older workers twice as long as younger workers to find new jobs. Those over 55 often face discrimination, cuts in wages and, now, safety concerns that could push them to early retirement.
“What that means, though, is they weren’t prepared,” said Teresa Ghilarducci, a labor economist at the New School.
Ghilarducci said early retirement will hit workers in their 50s and early 60s particularly hard. Not only do they have less time to save, they won’t be eligible for Medicare or full Social Security benefits.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?
It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.
How are Americans spending their money these days?
Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.
What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?
Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”
Marketplace is on a mission.
We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.
Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?