The rate of seniors collecting Social Security benefits has plunged to the lowest level in a decade, which Bloomberg suggests may be due to the disproportionate number of COVID-19 deaths among the elderly.
According to the Social Security Administration, the number of people who took retirement benefits rose by just 900,000 to 46.4 million in March, the smallest year-over-year gain since April 2009.
More via Bloomberg:
While the Office of the Chief Actuary at the government agency said it is still too early to assess the impact from Covid-19, the year-over-year change appears to reflect excess deaths. About 447,000 people who died from the virus were 65 or older, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or about 80% of total deaths.
The number of Social Security beneficiaries has risen in the past decade as baby boomers -- the large cohort born between 1946 and 1964 -- started to reach retirement age. Usually, during economic downturns, many are forced into retirement due to job losses, which adds to the retiree pool.
According to the CDC, there were 660,200 excess deaths from all causes between January 26, 2020 and February 27, 2021, mostly associated with COVID.
Bloomberg notes that other factors 'can' have an impact on Social Security numbers - for example, "In the early 2000s, the bump in beneficiaries was likely tied to the Senior Citizens’ Freedom to Work Act signed into law in April 2000," which reduced penalties for beneficiaries who continued to work. That said, there's nothing of the sort going on which could explain the current dropoff.
Life expectancy in the United State plunged by a full year in the first half of 2020 - the biggest drop since WWII - to 77.8 years from 78.8 in 2019 according to the National Center for Health Statistics.