Study: 20% of retirees plan to head back to work this year

Dive Brief:

  • 1 in 5 retirees who responded to a Resume Builder poll said they were likely to head back to work this year. Among those who plan to “unretire,” 19% plan to go back to a previous employer, 23% will stay in the same industry but work for a new employer and 58% said they would work in a different industry. Preferences for remote or in-person work were somewhat evenly split, though a plurality, close to one-third, said they preferred remote work but would work in-person if required. 
  • Rising costs are the primary driver of this shift, with 69% of respondents citing it as a factor. Other reasons included wanting to learn a new skill, to take advantage of the current labor market or to take advantage of a flexible or remote work culture.
  • Partnering with Pollfish, Resume Builder interviewed 800 retirees for the survey in late March. All were over 54 and retired.

Dive Insight:

More available workers may be a relief for employers that have struggled to find employees in the current environment. Indeed, nearly 1 in 4 Resume Builder respondents who were planning a return said they were doing so “to take advantage of new jobs in the labor shortage.” 

In addition, while rising costs may be the driving force behind most retired workers’ planned return to the workforce, many still indicated excitement about the prospect. Around half said they were “somewhat” or “very” enthusiastic about a potential return.

Yet older workers have traditionally struggled to gain recruiters’ attention. Federal regulators recently held an event in which they named older workers among those that have struggled with employment gaps and been overlooked in the labor market despite a major push for workers. 

This is partly the result of ageism and age discrimination that “remain stubbornly with us,” Heather Tinsley-Fix, senior advisor, financial resilience at AARP, said during the event. 

Another factor is the difficulty older workers sometimes have with a rapidly changing job application process, Tinsley-Fix said, which now may include the use of online hiring platforms and expectations that applicants play games, take assessments, submit videos or complete other technologically demanding requirements.

Tinsley-Fix noted that older workers often offer a variety of valuable skills and knowledge, including a specialized understanding of the industry and soft skills like empathy, critical thinking and relationship-building.

HR can reach older people looking for work by using resources like the AARP’s job board and removing language from job ads — such as “recent college graduate,” “fast-paced,” and “high-energy” — that can signal to retirees that their applications aren’t wanted, Tinsley-Fix said.

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