What data can teach us about the “Great Resignation”

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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 examined government data, news reports and academic studies to reveal information about the impact of the “Great Resignation” on the American workplace.

It’s tempting, if not fair, to wonder how around 33% of the workforce could be so willing to give up a job and stable income in the current 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 Bargaining, 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. .

Even though there are currently more job openings 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 . On average, 3.9 million people per month quit their jobs in 2021, the highest average on record for the Bureau of Labor Statistics since it began tracking the measure in 2000. Only two states, Colorado and Pennsylvania, have seen their quit rates drop. Twenty-two states saw significant increases, with New Hampshire, Georgia, Kentucky and North Dakota topping the list, and the rest unchanged.



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The United States also set new hiring records

As quit rates hit record highs, so did payroll additions. But it’s important to put these numbers in the context of the whole pandemic. It is often touted that the United States added 6.4 million jobs in 2021, an increase in the labor force of 4.5%. 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 between 53 and 68 percent 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 workforce for reasons such as childcare 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 outstripping that of 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 as such, they are the oldest demographic group to leave 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 BetterUp, a 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 on the entire workforce. ‘a company.



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Salary is not the main driver of quits, study finds

An MIT review of 34 million profiles of employees who quit for whatever reason found, overwhelmingly, that toxic culture, not pay, is driving the latest wave of quits. 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 said their decision to stay with their current employer depended on reviewing their benefits. 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 workforce left their jobs. 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.


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