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Most pandemic retirees are going back to work simply because they’re bored

July 13, 2022, 2:05 PM UTC
Portrait of senior woman at desktop computer in home office
MoMo Productions—Getty Images

Turns out, retirement can be boring.

Over two years into a pandemic that forced millions of premature retirements, the majority of retired workers who are looking to re-enter the workforce (60%) say in a new Joblist survey that they are simply “looking for something to do.” 

Approximately 2.4 million additional Americans retired during the pandemic, but the number of workers “unretiring” is on the rise. As of March 2022, 3.2% of the workers who were retired a year earlier have regained employment. Mounting economic woes have largely been cited as one of the key drivers behind the trend, with nearly 40-year-high inflation and recession fears to blame. It’s enough to send retirees back to work for a paycheck that can act as a safety net. 

But the majority of the 500 retired workers Joblist polled said their reason for returning was a personal choice, rather than financial. Only 27% of respondents say they are returning due to financial needs, citing inflation and stock market performances as a catalyst. 

While some expressed stress or nervousness about returning to work again, most are thrilled: Just over half said they were “happy” to do so and 42% felt “excited.” 

That might be because not all of those who retired in the past two years did so because they wanted to. Pandemic-induced layoffs led many to retire in 2020, leaving many with too much time suddenly on their hands.

Consider 60-year-old Jackie Anscher, a spin instructor who told The New York Times she felt forced into retirement when fitness studios shut down. She returned to the workforce as a substitute instructor, with her eyes peeled for a more steady role, so she can maintain her identity. “It’s about my mental health,” she said. “For me, it’s about preserving me.”

Like Anscher, most retired job seekers are interested in part-time, in-person opportunities. Half are open to either remote or in-person jobs, and 41% reported are looking for in-person only roles. The survey also revealed that 79% of retirees are interested in part-time work, while only 6% would like a full-time opportunity (the rest were open to either). 

But that doesn’t mean they want to work forever. While most plan on working for at least a few years, a third of respondents are unsure how long they want to stay in their new roles. In the meantime, get ready to make room for the retirees coming back to the office.

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