The ‘Great Retirement’ Disconnect That Puzzles U.S. Economists

The pandemic pushed millions of older Americans out of the labor force. It should have spawned a surge in Social Security benefits applications — but it hasn’t. Perhaps because they aren’t retired.

The disconnect has economists wondering how many of these baby boomers might come back to the workforce — a key question when job openings have remained near record levels for months now.

Here’s a look at the data and the debate it has spurred:

The retired share of the population is now substantially higher than before Covid-19, according to a Federal Reserve analysis. About 2.6 million older workers retired above ordinary trends since the start of the pandemic two years ago, based on estimates by Miguel Faria e Castro, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Under the U.S.’s federal retirement program, eligible workers receive a percentage of their pre-retirement income in monthly payments from the government. Workers can start receiving Social Security payments at age 62, with full benefits coming at age 66 or 67 depending on their date of birth.