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What data can teach us about the “Great Resignation”
In 2021, people are quitting their jobs at a record rate and it’s a trend that shows no signs of slowing down. Buddy punch reviewed government data, news reports, and academic studies to reveal information about the impact of the “Great Resignation” on the American workplace.
It’s tempting – just, even – to wonder how much 33% of the workforce might be so willing to give up a job and a steady income in today’s climate of economic uncertainty. But this trend has shown that people aren’t quitting despite the pandemic — they’re empowered to quit because of it.
Setting and breaking records is, almost to the detriment, an important part of the narrative around the Great Resignation. But many of the metrics reaching unprecedented levels do so within the scope of just 20 years of data collected. The Bureau of Labor Statistics only began tracking quit rates in 2000. Compared to other significant milestones in the country’s history before 2000, such as wars and economic downturns, it is likely that the workforce has experienced similar trends before.
The Great Resignation could be rebranded with a number of terms that perhaps more accurately describe how and why the American workforce is changing: the Great Industry Migration, the Great Revaluation, the Great Bargain, for example. What the Great Resignation hype has failed to do, particularly with its focus on records, is capture the systemic issues and cultural context to which the numbers practically scream attention.
The pandemic has created an opportunity for people to gauge their job satisfaction and how jobs fit into our COVID-era definitions of personal well-being. Today, the American economy is simultaneously experiencing an ideological shift toward jobs – and lives – with purpose, and the refusal of many low-wage workers to accept the status quo: stagnant pay, low or non-existent benefits, long hours and little job satisfaction. .
Although there is currently more jobs per job seeker than at any other time in the past two decades, changing jobs is still just a dream for many. Many people dream of a job that gives their life meaning, but many place a higher priority on keeping their families fed and healthy. For others, especially women, quitting their job isn’t always a decision made from a place of empowerment, but rather a childcare calculus.
The Great Resignation is a complex phenomenon indicative of long-standing discontent in the American workplace. As the data continues to emerge and reveal the full scope of this calculation, we have learned enough in a year to begin making impactful changes. Read on to see what the data has revealed so far.
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4.5 million workers left their jobs in November 2021
About 3% of the workforce, or a total of 4.5 million workers, left their jobs in November 2021. It was another record month, supplanting October’s record of 4.2 million quits . Average 3.9 million people per month quit smoking their jobs in 2021 — the highest average on record by the Bureau of Labor Statistics since it began tracking the metric in 2000. Only two states — Colorado and Pennsylvania — have seen a decrease in their dropout rate. Twenty-two states saw significant increases, with New Hampshire, Georgia, Kentucky and North Dakota topping the list, and the rest unchanged.
The United States also set new hiring records
As quit rates reached record highs, so did payroll additions. But it’s important to put these numbers in the context of the whole pandemic. It is often boasted that the The United States created 6.4 million jobs in 2021, representing a 4.5% increase in the workforce. These advances are important to the economic recovery of the United States. But the country is still operating with a deficit of around 4 million jobs after taking into account the resumption of the 22 million jobs cut at the start of the pandemic.
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Leisure and hospitality have the highest dropout rate
Workers in the restaurant and hospitality industries are leaving their jobs at a higher rate (7% in November alone) than employees in any other industry. However, the leisure and hospitality industries do experience relatively higher turnover rates. The dropout rate often exceeded 5% even before the pandemic. These industries are also chronically understaffed and underpaid with high rates of wage theft and low rates of job satisfaction. With job openings in a variety of other industries, many hotel, bar and restaurant workers are choosing new career paths with better pay and benefits.
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Women quit more often than men
It is estimated that anywhere between 53-68% of primary caregivers in the United States are women. Amid the pandemic’s early shutdowns, women, who covered the majority of homeschooling and caregiving, have been disproportionately affected and laid off at higher rates than men. Today, approximately 25% of women leave the labor market for reasons such as child care and/or elder care responsibilities. Many women are forced to do a cost-benefit analysis of returning to work and childcare costs rather than staying home or finding a remote role with more flexibility.
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The federal government had the lowest quit rate
Less than 1% of federal government employees left their jobs in November. Since 2016, the federal government has experienced the lowest turnover rates of any industry. While it’s hard to come up with a definitive answer to why federal employees quit so rarely, it could be that compensation growth has been steady and goes beyond the private sector. Other factors could be that benefits are good and job satisfaction is high.
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Young people represent the largest share of those who drop out
Given their age and short work experience, Gen Z and Millennial workers (which collectively span ages 18-40) are less likely to be married to a company or industry and, at this title, they are the older demographics are quitting their jobs. These groups often have more technical know-how, which not only makes them more receptive to remote work opportunities, but also more likely to seek them out due to their flexibility.
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A sense of purpose can help employers retain
One of the most significant impacts on the US economy and the mindset of Americans in general in the post-pandemic lockdown era is a renewed sense of purpose. People want their lives, including their careers, to have meaning. A connection to one’s work has significant implications for both employee and employer. According to a 2019 study conducted by BetterUpa high sense of belonging led to a 56% increase in job performance and a 50% decrease in turnover risk, both of which have measurable financial impacts across the business.
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Salary is not the main driver of quits, study finds
An MIT review of 34 million profiles of employees who left their jobs for whatever reason found, overwhelmingly, that toxic, nonpaying culture is the driving force behind the most recent wave of resignations. Their analysis found that culture was 10 times more important than salary, and toxic culture included lack of respect, unethical practices, and lack of diversity and inclusion efforts.
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Better benefits are key to employee retention
As job seekers change their criteria of what is an acceptable and desirable workplace, employers must work hard to catch up. According to a 2021 Workhuman survey, 66% of workers declared their decision to stay with their current employer depended on looking at their benefits package. In addition to providing the space to find purpose and fulfillment at work, employers also need to think about mental and financial health resources, flexible working hours including leave policies, career development and educational opportunities, among others.
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The Great Resignation is historic—in a way
In 2019, without the push of a pandemic, 28% of the working population leaves their job. In 2021, the total dropout rate only jumped 5 percentage points. While this is still important, it’s not that far from our understanding when you consider years of stagnant wages in service industries and slow employer adoption of holistic benefits.
This story originally appeared on Buddy punch
and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.