OK, Boomers: You’re to Blame for the Labor Market Shortage

Mature man sitting in a restaurant and eating pasta for lunch.
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If Baby Boomers thought they could escape the wrath of their younger peers just because it’s the holidays — sorry, not gonna happen. Now Boomers are taking it on the chin for the part they have played in the current labor shortage plaguing the American economy.

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Much of the narrative surrounding the labor shortage focuses on the unwillingness of young people to find jobs because they have such easy access to government benefits. But the truth is, a rise in early retirements is having a bigger impact.

In November, the number of Americans who left the workforce because they didn’t want a job rose by 3.6 million from November 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. About 90% of them were over 55 years old, CNN Business reported. In fact, of the many millions of people who have left the labor force over the past two years, the vast majority are older Americans who decided to retire early. There are a few reasons for this:

  • Skyrocketing home prices and a robust stock market have increased the wealth of many Boomers, prompting them to reconsider their work and retirement plans.
  • Many Boomers are afraid of catching COVID-19 in the workplace, especially with so many variants, like Delta and Omicron, extending the length of the pandemic.
  • Employers haven’t made a convincing case about the merits of working longer or coming out of retirement.
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The result is that a growing number of older Americans have decided to forsake the workplace years ahead of schedule. As GOBankingRates previously reported, a recent research note from Goldman Sachs found that more than two-thirds of Americans who have left the labor force during the pandemic are either at retirement age or closing in on it. Many who recently quit jobs aren’t going back.

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But there is some good news, at least on the hiring front: a growing number of companies are finding it a little easier to lure job candidates as they roll out more perks and higher wages. One such company is FedEx, which received 111,000 applications during the last week alone, CNN Business noted. That set a new company record for weekly applications and was more than double the total from May.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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