As COVID-19 struck America last year, many people who were lucky enough to keep their jobs in the process committed to “sticking it out, working from home, and making it through to the other side.”
Now that we are thankfully almost there with an ever-growing number of Americans at least partially vaccinated (at least 133.3 million so far, or half the country’s eligible population), those same people who have “stuck it out” for the past year are finally ready to move on in what could be a seismic wave of job hunting and new hiring over the coming months.
According to new data collected by Morning Consult for Prudential Financial’s “Pulse of the American Worker” survey, a remarkable 25% of American workers are considering quitting their job and finding new employment as the pandemic eases.
CNBC’s Jennifer Liu has reported that the country could be nearing a massive wave of American workers looking for new opportunities, similar to the peak that occurred several years back.
“In 2019, workers were quitting their jobs at record rates, with labor experts saying workers did so in order to secure the pay raises and promotions they weren’t getting from within,” Liu said. “Then, beginning in March 2020, the labor market shed 20.5 million jobs in the first few weeks of the coronavirus pandemic. Now, a year later, there are still nearly 7.9 million fewer Americans counted as employed than in February 2020, while the labor force is down 3.9 million.”
“[In April 2021], with signs pointing toward recovery in many economic sectors, workers are feeling the itch to job-hop yet again,” she added. “By some estimates, 1 in 4 workers are planning to look for opportunities with a new employer once the threat of the pandemic has subsided.”
The data, collected by consumer research firm Morning Consult in March 2021, “includes a sample of 2,000 employed adults, including a statistically significant sample of workers that are or have been working remotely during the pandemic.”
Based on the survey’s findings, Liu reported that 80% of those who said they plan on finding a new job in the coming months “are doing so because they’re concerned about their career advancement; meanwhile, 72% say the pandemic caused them to rethink their skill sets.”
The survey also revealed that more than 50% of “potential job-hoppers have sought out new training and skills during the pandemic” to help them in their upcoming job hunt.
The added conveniences of spending less time in the office and working remotely also appear to have struck a chord with many corporate employees.
“Workers who want to quit overwhelmingly say they’re looking for a new job with more flexibility,” Liu reported. “Even among those who aren’t considering changing jobs, half of people currently working remotely say if their current company doesn’t continue to offer remote-work options long-term, they’ll look for a job at a company that does.”
In an interview with CNBC, Derek Avery, a researcher and professor in industrial/organizational psychology at the University of Houston, told Liu he wasn’t surprised by the major shifts in people’s desires and the changing attitudes about work over the last year. But Avery also worries that those changes in the workforce “could widen the divide between the ‘haves,’ or the upwardly mobile who can best leverage job-hopping, and the ‘have-nots,’ or workers less likely to be able to move employers to gain new skills, money, status or flexibility.”
“The notion of jumping ship to get other offers and increase your market value tends to work better for members of dominant groups,” Avery said, alluding to the opportunities reserved for white men that aren’t typically extended to women and minorities.
Already, people who can work remotely tend to be white, college-educated and higher-income workers. If a post-pandemic workplace accelerates this trend, Avery said it could worsen existing income inequality.