Ricky Head
by on October 17, 2021

In August, the number of people quitting reached a new high, with approximately 4.3 million Americans leaving their jobs, primarily in retail, food services, and hospitality.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary released on Tuesday, this equates to nearly 3% of the US workforce quitting in August. It’s the fifth month in a row that has broken the record — the most number of departures since the BLS began collecting this data in 2001.

Employers straining to fill positions and decrying labor shortages are unlikely to find relief, as workers show no signs of slowing down one of the pandemic’s most pervasive trends: resigning.

Despite the fact that the US added 366,000 jobs in August — considerably less than experts expected — and 194,000 positions in September, people appeared to have no qualms about quitting their current jobs. The development of the Delta type was responsible for the lesser increases, as the pandemic’s grip on the economy and employment tightened with increased caseloads. However, they also indicate that workers are increasingly asserting their power and feeling comfortable resigning, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Low-wage, largely in-person jobs appear to have accounted for the greatest number of people quitting. Workers leaving lodgings and food services, for example, drove departures; the industry’s leave rate was 6.8%, more than twice the overall rate.

The quit rate in the retail trade was likewise at a record high, at 4.7 percent. Both sectors rely significantly on in-person service, which has seen a decline as a result of the pandemic, and both are full of anecdotes about labor shortages. Economists have told Insider that many workers require more — whether it’s perks, greater income, or better working conditions — to put their lives on the line for those jobs.

According to Insider’s Grace Dean and Madison Hoff, over three-quarters of respondents in a Joblist survey of 2,099 people said they were considering leaving their jobs in July, August, or September. With 77 percent of hospitality workers considering resigning, this was the greatest number.

Workers leaving can also cause cyclical understaffing, which can lead to burnout among remaining employees. According to a September note from Bank of America researchers, some employers are dealing with the labor shortage by relying more on the workers they already have. However, “this is not sustainable: you can only speed up the treadmill for so long,” the report’s authors wrote.

There is no single explanation for why workers are abandoning their jobs. According to Nick Bunker, an Indeed economist, the data released on Tuesday does not include people who are transitioning from one industry to another or into a higher-paying role.

Over the summer, the number of people who were unable to work because they were caring for themselves or others who were suffering from coronavirus symptoms increased dramatically. To make matters worse, childcare centers are once again closing due to increased caseloads.

Daniel Zhao, a senior economist at Glassdoor, told Insider in August that 3.7 million more people would have quit if the pandemic hadn’t occurred — those “missing quits” have steadily decreased as workers leave in droves to make up for the lost time.

Then there’s the existential response. When humans come into direct touch with death and illness, according to Anthony Klotz, an organizational psychologist who created the phrase “Great Resignation,” they step back and ask existential questions, which has been tragically prevalent throughout the pandemic. “Life pivots” can result as a result of this.

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