Retiring: In a Tight Labor Market, Retirees Fill Gaps Their Previous Employers Can’t

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At some organizations, it is high-level executives who have come out of retirement.

Thomas Murphy, a construction engineer in Atlanta, had helped the United Parcel Service erect some 70 buildings throughout the United States during his career at the company. In 2007, after he had risen to the post of coordinator of compliance and ethics for the company, he accepted an early retirement package.

“I was only 50,” he said, “but the package was generous. My health insurance would be paid until Medicare kicked in. I thought it was time to start something new.”

At first, Mr. Murphy, now 62, and his wife, Nancy, traveled. Then they started a small construction firm that had, as part of its mission, the training of disadvantaged youths in the building trades. But after a few years, the demands overwhelmed them. “Our retirement was exhausting us,” he said.

After shutting the business down, Mr. Murphy thought that regular full-time employment might be the best way to spend his senior years. But by then he was in his late 50s, and the difficulties he had finding employment frustrated him.

Eventually, through friends, Mr. Murphy heard about a program that U.P.S. had organized to recruit retirees.

The internet shopping boom had driven huge growth for the delivery service. Management was seeking to bring back former workers, who, according to Malcolm Berkley, a vice president at U.P.S., “wouldn’t need much training because they’d done the job for 30 years.”

The day after Mr. Murphy applied, he was offered a position mentoring new construction engineers.

Today, he is the East region project engineering manager for the company, and is comanaging the construction of what will be a large automated distribution center on the west side of Atlanta. But this time, Mr. Murphy is not on the U.P.S. payroll. He works for a staffing company, Cortech.

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