man quitting job
(delcarmat/Shutterstock)

‘Great Resignation’: A Record 4.3 Million Americans Quit Their Jobs in August 2021   

The workplace continues to evolve in startling new ways, especially in light of the dramatic and ongoing spike of people leaving jobs they are unhappy with and looking for new ones.

CNN’s Matt Egan reported that “a record 4.3 million people quit their jobs in August, evidence of the considerable leverage workers have in today’s economy.”

According to new data in the recently released Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report, approximately 2.9% of the workforce quit their current job in August 2021. That figure was up from 2.7% in July — when researchers had recorded the highest rate since the report began tracking this data in late 2000.

“The number of workers who quit rose by 242,000 from July as more Americans demanded higher pay, better working conditions and more flexible arrangements,” Egan said. “The number of people who quit rose in accommodation and food services, wholesale trade and state and local government education.”

In an interview with CNN, the PNC Financial Services Group’s chief economist Gus Faucher said, “if you’re unhappy with your job or want a raise, in the current environment, it’s pretty easy to find a new one. We’re seeing people vote with their feet.”

While people are leaving their jobs in record numbers overall, Faucher warned that corporate America, specifically, continues to struggle with a serious worker shortage. In August, over 10.4 million positions remained unfilled across the country, down from the peak of 11.1 million openings set in July 2021 — the highest figure ever recorded in JOLTS’ two-decade history.

These numbers may be ushering in the start of what some are calling the new “golden age for the American worker.”

“The American worker is now confident that he or she has the bargaining power and can obtain a reasonable wage — and have influence over the shape of working conditions,” said Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at consulting firm RSM.

According to Brusuelas, the change is being brought about not just by people’s willingness to quit jobs they don’t like and look for new ones, but also a broader reassessment around the quality of life and purpose.

“This is what happens after great wars or depressions,” Brusuelas told CNN. “It’s hard to spot while you’re in it, but we’ve gone through a shock that has elicited an unexpected change upon the population. And it will take some time to sort through.”

These changing dynamics and values are also why many lower-paying industries, including factories, trucking companies, restaurants, construction firms and schools, have many job openings and are having such trouble finding new employees.

“In the long run, such a workforce transformation will be a positive thing, allowing more people to find satisfaction in their careers and for businesses to have happier employees,” Egan said. “It can allow more workers to make a living wage and contribute to the broader economy, easing the alarming gap between rich and poor.”

But for now, with people still quitting their jobs in droves, it also means the economy may be forced to reopen more slowly than many would like. Additionally, rising prices, ongoing supply chain problems, shipping delays and product shortages could remain in effect for the foreseeable future.

 

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