Workplace Culture

The pandemic is pushing some older workers into retirement early

Meghan McCarty Carino Oct 5, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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For retirees in their 50s and early 60s, not only do they have less time to save, they won’t be eligible for Medicare or full Social Security benefits. Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images
Workplace Culture

The pandemic is pushing some older workers into retirement early

Meghan McCarty Carino Oct 5, 2020
For retirees in their 50s and early 60s, not only do they have less time to save, they won’t be eligible for Medicare or full Social Security benefits. Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images
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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

New COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S. are on the rise. How are Americans reacting?

Johns Hopkins University reports the seven-day average of new cases hit 68,767 on Sunday  — a record — eclipsing the previous record hit in late July during the second, summer wave of infection. A funny thing is happening with consumers though: Even as COVID-19 cases rise, Americans don’t appear to be shying away from stepping indoors to shop or eat or exercise. Morning Consult asked consumers how comfortable they feel going out to eat, to the shopping mall or on a vacation. And their willingness has been rising. Surveys find consumers’ attitudes vary by age and income, and by political affiliation, said Chris Jackson, who heads up polling at Ipsos.

How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?

Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

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