B&N Editorial: COVID-Inspired Early-Retirement Plans

By: Douglas B. Silver

I am sure that each of you was greeted during the holidays with supply-chain delays.  Isn’t it exciting having to wait 3-6 months for a present?

A big part of these delays has been blamed on truckers.

Originally. I assumed the trucker deficit was caused by the younger generation living off the Federal stimulus checks or their enabling parents, while enjoying their extended COVID vacations. But blaming the youth didn’t make sense because food must be put on the table and the rent must be paid.  Additionally, there is scant evidence that everyone is independently wealthy.  So where did the drivers go? 

The American Trucking Association1 predicts that the USA is currently short 100,000 drivers and this shortfall is expected to grow to 160,000 by 2028.

One reason for the lack of drivers is because an 18-year-old can obtain a commercial driver’s license, but 49 states do not allow them to cross state lines until they are 21. Hopefully, the Drive-Safe Act in front of Congress will fix this problem.

The bigger problem is that the average driver’s age is 55. Experienced truckers are retiring at an alarming rate and with an average salary of $48,000 per year, the younger generation has little incentive to replace these older ones.

Toss in COVID and we see the perfect recipe for early retirement. Some truckers were laid off due to port and business closures, while others added their stimulus check to their savings and determined that now was the time to step down.

But this COVID-inspired early-retirement plan extends well beyond the truckers.  It was implemented across every industry leading to the current labor shortage.

Now add a time bomb. A “Baby Boomer” is anyone born between 1946 to 1964 (currently 58-76 years old).  This was the highest birth rate since the early 1920s and added more than 2.4 million people just in the United States between 1940 and 1950.2 

Intersect this large, aging group with COVID and it is easy to forecast that there will be massive numbers of jobs opening up in the near future. Economist point out that the U.S. is currently a full employment with the unemployment rate at 4.2%.  But there are still 11 million jobs available.  Who is going to fill these opportunities?

What a wonderful time to be young and beginning a career! As the world gets vaccinated, the global economy will continue it rebound further exacerbating the labor shortage.  In the near-term there is a tremendous amount of metal production that was either lost or delayed during the Pandemic. Add the new production required to satisfy the needs of the ever-growing human population and you have the perfect storm for strong wages and rapid career advancement.

  1. trucking.org
  2. Reader’s Digest. August 1951, pg. 5.
Douglas B. Silver