A campaign to lure older people back to work has been boosted by early signs of a wave of “unretirement”, The Telegraph reports.

The number of 50 to 64-year-olds preparing to get back to work rose sharply in the final three months of 2022, according to analysis of official data by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), as soaring inflation forced people to rethink whether they can afford to retire.

At the end of last year, one in 20 economically inactive 50 to 64-year-olds said they would start looking for a job in the next three months – or 5.17% of the total.

This was a significant jump from the 3.84% who said they would rejoin the workforce in the year to September and well above the pre-pandemic average of 4.48%.

Xiaowei Xu and David Sturrock, economists at the IFS, said the data could be an early indicator of “a wave of ‘unretirements’.”

“There are reasons to think that we might have reached a turning point, and that we might continue to see higher flows out of inactivity in the months to come,” they said.

Xu said the back-to-work pivot among the over-50s was most likely being driven by inflation.

She said: “If the return is triggered by the cost of living crisis, it is no cause for wider celebration – it is a response to people becoming poorer.”

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has made efforts to get more people back to work a key focus of his upcoming Spring Budget on March 15.

The number of people out of work has surged since the pandemic and Hunt believes this is a major barrier to economic growth.

Of the 6.6m economically inactive people who are not students, more than a million have taken early retirement. Hunt has personally called on them to return to the workforce, saying “Britain needs you”.

Data from the Office for National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey shows that more than 10% of over-50s who left the workforce since the pandemic are now thinking about getting back to work.

The inactivity rate amongst 50 to 64-year-olds has begun to decrease slowly, falling from its post-pandemic peak of 27.7% last July to 27.1% in December.

The number of retirees swearing off work for good has also dropped. The share of economically inactive 50 to 64-year-olds who said they were unlikely to work again has fallen from 68.9% to 65.9%.

Xu said Mr Hunt should use the Budget to encourage older workers to return to employment for more positive reasons than an inflation shock.