Yesterday at Fenway Park the famous New York Yankee baseball player Derek Jeter played his last game (see video here). Jeter announced his “retirement” last February during Yankee pre-season training. He felt after playing professional baseball for 20 years that it “was the right time” to leave. Media around the world focused on how sad people felt about his “retirement” at age 40. While watching his final at bat the thought occurred to me that while Derek Jeter might be leaving the active roster of the NY Yankees, there is little chance that he is actually retiring. Why isn’t Derek Jeter really retiring?
Retirement is determined by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Current Population Survey (CPS). Each month the survey determines the country’s unemployment rate. The goal of the survey is to classify people into three categories; employed, unemployed and not-in-the-labor-force. People who are retirees are part of the not-in-the-labor-force. While I doubt CPS interviewers will be ringing Derek Jeter’s doorbell anytime soon, the survey’s classification methodology helps us figure out if Jeter really will belong in the retiree category.
The most important question the CPS asks is “Last week did you do ANY work for either pay or profit? Professional athletes after leaving sports often are paid to sign autographs for fans, give speeches about their careers or simply show up to events to help attract a large crowd. If Jeter does any of these jobs, no matter how little time they take, he is still working. Jeter might also have a second career providing commentary or doing his own television show during the baseball season. This second career also means Jeter is not retired, but an active member of the work force.
Let’s assume the Derek Jeter doesn’t work for pay after leaving Major League Baseball. It is still very likely that the government would not classify him as retired. If a person did not work for pay, the CPS questions probe to see if a person was searching for work. If they were searching for work they are classified as unemployed. What does this mean for Jeter? It means that if he is out playing a round of golf and someone asks if he would like a job then he would likely be considered unemployed (assuming he reports getting the job offer during the CPS interview).
There are only a few ways Jeter would be classified as “retired.” One is by spending all of his time working at his charity the “Turn 2 Foundation.” People who volunteer their time are not considered employed or unemployed. Another way to be really classified as “retired” is to publicly announce that he will accept no money for any activities and try to avoid meeting strangers who want to pay him for making appearances. Given both situations are unlikely Jeter will not be formally classified as “Not-in-the-Labor-Force; retired” no matter how many articles are written claiming he is “retired.”
My personal guess is the exact label “retired,” “employed, or “unemployed” is completely irrelevant to the former Yankee captain. No matter what Jeter decides to do I wish him success in the next phase of his life.