An economist will tell you it's a hot labor market: A record number of people quit their jobs in September, and the U.S. is seeing record job openings as the economy chugs back to life from the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic drove millions of workers into early retirement — and experts say they could be key to reviving the economy. The number of people who retired rose much faster than the typical pace during the pandemic. More than 3 million additional people retired compared with normal, a Federal Reserve Bank of Saint Louis analysis found. Meanwhile, the economy is still down nearly 4 million jobs from before COVID-19. "40% of the older workers that were pushed out of the labor market because they were unemployed, they were laid off, they were fired during the pandemic, 40% of them were permanent job losers and most of them said OK, I'm not just a discouraged worker, I'm not a long-term unemployed, I'm going to tell the [Labor Department] survey I'm retired,'" said Teresa Ghilarducci, labor economist and professor at The New School. Older workers were a much bigger share of the unemployed workers in the pandemic compared with the last recession, she said. She found many of these workers were not college educated and could not work from home. Their retirements came out of hopelessness without strong prospects of going back to the workforce. While businesses pre-pandemic typically kept workers with more seniority and laid off newer workers, that didn't hold during COVID, Ghilarducci said. "And then we didn't see that willingness of employers to hire older workers in those phases when the COVID cases were down and the economy was coming back." Americans are already working more days, longer hours and later in life than people in other industrial countries, but the number of U.S. workers expecting to work beyond 62 years old ticked down during the pandemic. The pandemic did not deplete the value of financial assets the way the Great Recession did – so some people had the nest egg necessary to retire. But in many cases, earlier retirement can also permanently lower someone's standard of living. As workers are pushed out, they may have to go into debt, draw down savings, collect Social Security earlier and pay for pre-Medicare health care. "I think there's a lot of noise right now and a lot of disagreement about who the retirees are that retired earlier than expected. Is it the people who were forced to leave the labor force, or is it the people who were more empower . . . read the full article here.