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The Great Resignation

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Today, millions of Americans have taken a leap of faith by quitting their jobs. The coined term ‘great resignation’ refers to the number of Americans who voluntarily left their positions in the last year. Throughout the pandemic, companies laid off workers in droves due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving millions of Americans unemployed and relying on government assistance, according to the United States Bureau of Statistics. In the latter half of 2021, The United States saw these labor shortages shift for other reasons, such as employees voluntarily leaving their jobs. 

 

Though it may seem that millions of Americans have gotten up and left the workforce and never returned, that is not the case.

While 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in December of 2021, according to BLS Jolts, the job openings and labor turnover survey program which produces data on job openings, hires, and separations, the number of job openings and hires have seen steady increases at 10.9 million job openings and 6.3 million hires. What this means is that rather than leaving the workforce in total, employees are job hopping and ultimately finding better opportunities.

“In these historic levels of quits, we are also seeing a very large number of hires,” said Nick Bunker, director of research for Indeed, an employment website for job listings. 

The United States is also seeing the rate of employment rise. With a larger demand for workers as the economy has reopened due to vaccines, there is a surge in demand. As the economy has more demand for workers; rises in wages, benefits, and flexibility is at the top of job seeker’s lists. 

According to the US  Bureau of Labor Statistics, job openings increased in several industries including food services (+133,000), information (+40,000), and nondurable goods manufacturing and state and local government  (+31,000  each).

An increase in wage and more responsibility was on the top of the list for Becky Chariton, who recently took a job as a social media manager. Chariton who previously worked in the nonprofit sector for nearly two years said although she had total autonomy in her position, working in the nonprofit field not only caused burnout from wearing many hats, but the compensation was not worth all of the hard work.

 
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“I just felt like I reached a point where I didn’t really have much growing to do there, and that I knew there were better opportunities to get paid more and have more flexibility,” said Chariton. 

And Becky is not alone, according to Resumebuilder.com, a professional development website, 50% of job seekers want better pay and benefits. Forty-two percent of job-seekers want a job they are more passionate about, while 32% say poor working conditions at their current job is the reason why they are exploring new employment opportunities. 

 

For Jheri Wills, a former diversity and inclusion associate at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the on-going effects of the novel Coronavirus pandemic impacted her decision to leave her job in more ways than one. 

“In the summer of 2020, we had a huge racial reckoning and at the time I was the only person who had diversity in their title so things came my way,” said Wills. “Also I am a black woman so a lot of the issues in the media were affecting me directly and forced me to be clear about setting boundaries.” 

Wills quit her job at U of Arts to pursue a role at a law firm in Philadelphia that is paying more and includes more people on her team which helps her feel less overwhelmed.

In December of 2021, millions of Americans separated from their jobs. Three industries with the most noticeable rise in quitting are the food industry, hospitality, and retail trade. There is a large surge in demand for these workers due to businesses reopening as a result of the roll-out of vaccines. Due to the high demand, wage growth in these sectors has increased, particularly in leisure and hospitality. 

According to Harry resource center, a center that monitors industry trends, hospitality wages will likely rise at five to seven percent in 2022. Much of the wage growth has to do with an attempt to attract and retain talent. The raise increased to a minimum of $15/hr in 2021. 

Separations include quits, layoffs, and discharges, and other separations. According to BLS Jolts, the number of quits decreased in December to 4.3 million over November’s 4.5 million. Quits decreased in healthcare, food services, and construction, but increased in non-durable goods. Layoffs also saw a decrease likely due to reopens. The number of employees leaving their jobs decreased in the service industry, a series low; but separations in education increased by 3,000 since November 2021. 

Separations also count for retirement and recently retired substitute teacher Michelle Wilson is part of this statistic. 

Michelle is  nearly  65  years old  and worked as a substitute teacher at an elementary school  for the Pittsburgh  public school system. She enjoyed  being a   substitute teacher because  she would  replace teachers who were  out on leave short  term and sometimes long term. But she said that once the pandemic hit, substitute teachers were not being hired, so Wilson applied  for unemployment.  As  schools opened back up,  children  and teachers were steadily cooking down with the virus and it was on December 31, 2021 that Michelle decided to retire for good.

“I was considering going back to [Crescent elementary school] ,  but with the teachers  and the kids  getting covid, it’s scary,” said Wilson. “I have my aunt here living with me who is 80  years old, so I don’t want to get sick and bring it back to her.”

For Michelle, who says she has great benefits through the government now that she is 65, retired life is a life she is looking forward to.

Though Wilson does not have plans to go back to work,  retired workers are returning to work due to vaccines  and structural  changes within organizations.

These changes in behaviors by employees have started necessary restructuring  for organizations to consider in order to retain their workers. Candidates are looking to work  for campaigns with values that align with their own company culture,  as well as livable wages and benefits.  As Nick bunker simply puts it, “people  are realizing that maybe the grass is greener on the other side.”

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