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LA Times: Pandemic Caused Many Boomers to Retire. What That Means for the Economy—And Everyone Else

Posted by Don Lee on Jul 8, 2021

LA Times summarized trends of older workers retiring earlier in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, quoting AEE’s former senior communications director Monique Hanis. Read the full article here. Finger Lakes Times covered the story here.

When the health crisis struck early last year, workers of all ages were laid off by the tens of millions. But the result of the pandemic-induced recession is turning out to be vastly different for older workers than for their younger counterparts.

In large numbers, many have reassessed their finances and other factors and have concluded that they are about as well off retiring now as they would be going back to work and soldiering on for a few more years.

Even as pandemic restrictions have been lifted and businesses are struggling to find enough workers to fully reopen, the number of adults 55 and older who are participating in the labor force — that is, working or looking for work — has barely budged this year and is actually down from last fall, according to government statistics.

That’s in sharp contrast to people in their prime working years, ages 25 to 54, who have made significant strides in getting back into the job market.

The pandemic did not accelerate Monique Hanis’ retirement, but it certainly crystallized her plans.

“I think it allowed for thoughtful time and conversations. It really solidified the decision that I was ready,” said Hanis, who this week turned 60 and also left her job as senior director of communications at Advanced Energy Economy, a business association in Washington.

For Hanis, the pandemic spurred a broad rethink about life, health and priorities.

“You can’t always get your healthiest time back,” she said, “and as we get older, that becomes a concern, to be able to physically do the things that we want to do, to travel.”

Her husband, Doug Warnecke, retired two years ago at age 66. “After juggling two really demanding careers,” Hanis said, “raising kids through all of this — I took six weeks off to have the babies and I was back to work — you know, all the carpooling and sports teams and all the stuff you do, and we’re just like, ‘It’s time to have fun. Let’s play.’”

The long-term consequences of a pullback by baby boomers cut deep: Their smaller contribution to the labor force suggests slower economic growth ahead for the U.S. and potentially negative effects on the economy’s overall productivity.

In the first quarter of this year, 30.3 million baby boomers reported they were out of the labor force because of retirement, according to the Pew Research Center’s analysis of government data.

That is 2.7 million more than in the first quarter of 2020, a much bigger increase than the average growth of roughly 2 million retired boomers annually over the last decade.

There are reasons to think the sharp break in older workers’ labor participation could be a lasting trend.

Read the full article here.

Topics: AEE In The News