The seismic shift caused by the pandemic in regard to the American workforce is only now beginning to be fully understood, and a succinct new phrase might help sum things up: "the great resignation." Referring to the idea that lots of people have been, or will be, quitting their jobs, it appears to have been coined by Anthony Klotz of Texas A&M in an interview last month with Bloomberg Businessweek. Coverage:
- "The great resignation is coming," Klotz said in the interview. He suggested that many workers who were fortunate enough to have kept their jobs amid the pandemic didn't dare give them up in such a time of uncertainty. Now, "there are pent-up resignations that didn't happen over the past year."
- What's more, the pandemic caused people to reassess their work-life balance in unprecedented ways. "People have had a little more space to ask themselves, 'Is this really what I want to be doing?'" University of Michigan economist Betsey Stevenson tells Axios. More now want fewer, or at least more flexible hours, or are considering career switches altogether.
- This isn't just theoretical. Citing Labor Department stats, the Wall Street Journal reports that 2.7% of US workers left their jobs in April, the highest level in more than 20 years. The figure is up from 1.6% a year earlier, amid the pandemic.
- A spate of surveys hits the same theme. In March, roughly 25% of US workers told Prudential Financial they intend to find a new job with a different employer. Another cited by the World Economic Forum puts the figure at 41% globally.
- But maybe view those surveys with skepticism. It's easy to "talk tough" in questionnaires, writes Jack Kelly at Forbes. "Given a little room to think about the reality of this decision, they'll quickly realize it's not such a smart decision to depart without another job offer in hand." Generally, he makes the case that that "great resignation" is being exaggerated.
- Still, the widely documented phenomenon of businesses struggling to make hires suggests something real is happening, though it may take a while to play out. "People are seeing the world differently," consultant Steve Cadigan tells the Journal. "It's going to take time for people to think through, 'How do I unattach where I'm at and reattach to something new?' We're going to see a massive shift in the next few years."
- A feature in Time offers some real-world examples, including a Virginia couple—she an insurance agent and he a restaurant manager—who ditched their jobs to start a landscaping company and work outdoors. "For many," writes Joanne Lipman, "this has become a moment to literally redefine what is work."
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