Roughly 2.4 million additional Americans retired in the first 18 months of the pandemic than expected, making up the majority of the 4.2 million people who left the labor force between March 2020 and July 2021, according to Miguel Faria-e-Castro, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
The percentage of retirees returning to work has picked up momentum in recent months, hitting a pandemic high of 3.2 percent in March, according to Indeed. In interviews with nearly a dozen workers who recently “un-retired,” many said they felt comfortable returning to work now that they’ve gotten the coronavirus vaccine and booster shots. Almost all said they’d taken on jobs that were more accommodating of their needs, whether that meant being able to work remotely, travel less or set their own hours.
“This is primarily a story of a tight labor market,” said Bunker of Indeed, who added that there was a similar rebound in people returning from retirement after the Great Recession. “For so much of last year, the big question in the labor market was: Where are all the workers? This year we’re seeing that they’re coming back.”
Take the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), which in February reported that it had its second-highest year for retirements in 2020, behind the fallout from the Great Recession. The pension fund reported a steep 26% jump in the second half of 2020 from the same time a year before.
When the pension fund for educators surveyed roughly 500 of these retirees, about 62% said they retired earlier than they planned. More than half said the challenges of teaching during the pandemic pushed them to seek an early out. Still, a CalSTRS spokesperson said this week that the fund does not expect the retirements to have a “material impact” on the funding levels.
Broadly speaking, any damage from early retirements is going to be “fairly muted,” according to Kevin McLaughlin, head of liability risk management for North America at Insight Investment.
While many may be talking about early retirement, few are actually driving off into the sunset in their Overland campers — yet. According to figures provided by Pearce, about the same number of people put in for retirement during the first three months of 2021 as during January, February and March of last year.
But her office did see a “significant increase,” she said, in employees asking about how much it would cost them if they purchased enough retirement credits to exit the workforce early.
A bill that would allow teachers who are eligible to retire to purchase up to five years of service, age or a combination of the two in order to make room for new teachers has been backed by state Sen. John Velis, D-Westfield, and state Rep. Carol Doherty, D-Taunton.
Now, generally speaking, when an employer switches from a traditional pension to a defined contribution plan, this means a significant drop in plan benefits for employees. In Florida, that’s not the case — at least nominally not so: the employer contribution rate is the same for either type of plan, and varies only by employment class. (Of course, this doesn’t take into account any additional contributions needed to remedy funded status.) In addition, regular readers will know that I insist whenever the opportunity arises that state and local employees should participate in Social Security just as much as the rest of us do; as it happens, that is already the case for public employees in Florida. In addition, unlike the 8 year vesting of the traditional pension plan, the employer contributions to the defined contribution plan vest after only a year of service.
Public workers in New York could have an incentive to retire early under a proposal by a pair of state lawmakers unveiled on Thursday.
The bill backed by Sen. Peter Harckham and Assemblyman Tom Abinanti would create early retirement incentives for workers 55 and older who have 10 years of service with state or workers with 25 years of government service. A separate bill that covers early retirement for public workers in New York City was previously introduced.
The bill comes as local government finances have been scrambled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Revenue from the sales tax, for instance, dropped 10% statewide.