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.