The Hidden Forces Fueling the Unretirement Boom

‘Unretirement,' that is, retiring and then rejoining the labor force, is catching on among older Americans.

Around 2.6 million Americans left the workforce earlier than expected during the pandemic. Now many of them are wading back into the labor pool.

Economists see several factors ‘at work.' One pull factor is the labor crunch, with desperate employers offering higher hourly pay rates. On the push side, the recent downturn on Wall Street could be hitting retirees' savings.

There is also the widespread availability of remote-work positions. Returning to the ‘office' is much easier without the daily commute, especially if you are past your physical prime.

Yet there is more going on with unretirement. Less new fad than market correction, it could unmask a more profound reality about what the pandemic's ‘Great Resignation' really meant for many older workers.

Forced Retirement

Most senior workers did not choose to retire early during the pandemic but were forced from their jobs, according to a recent study by the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis.


According to AARP Research, the problem only got worse during the pandemic, with 78% of older workers reporting having witnessed or experienced age discrimination at work in 2020, a significant jump from 61% in 2018.

Matter of Choice

Choosing to come out of retirement can be empowering, but being forced back to the grindstone to cover rising costs amid dwindling savings is certainly not.

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