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Employers, recruiters and economists are all talking about the so-called Great Resignation: the stampede of workers leaving their jobs and jumping into new roles and fields amid the pandemic.

The best evidence of this right now is the record rate at which workers are leaving their jobs, as shown in the often-known Bureau of Labor Statistics Monthly Job Openings and Turnover Survey. under the acronym JOLTS. In August, the dropout rate hit a new high of 2.9%. The pre-pandemic high for dropouts was 2.4% in August 2019, based on historical data compiled by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

We see further evidence in the decline of people participating in their former occupations, particularly workers who have been laid off, laid off or voluntarily quit their jobs to care for family members during the pandemic. Rather than going back to their old, direct customer-facing jobs – in areas like food service, retail, personal services, health care, education, bus driving, and the list is long – many of these workers are holding back or considering taking on new jobs and careers.

Anyone who is embroiled in the nightmare of hiring workers in today’s job market can speak volumes about this wave of quits and job changes.

“I’ve never seen a more competitive market in my career,” said Amy Zimmerman, director of human resources at Atlanta-based financial technology company Relay Payments. “From a recruiting perspective, the number of people who have changed jobs this year – from what I see on LinkedIn – is incredible.”

Marketplace senior reporter Mitchell Hartman interviewed passers-by in Eugene, Oregon about their career plans. (Mitchell Hartman / Market)

Ray Sandza also sees this in the data his company, Homebase, compiles from supporting payroll and human resources operations at approximately 100,000 small businesses across the United States.

“Think about the Great Resignation – it was just harder to fill the jobs that were there before,” Sandza said. This is especially true for bars, restaurants and retailers, he said. “People are changing industries – people who can take customer service jobs at tech companies, for example. They don’t want to go back to those jobs at current wage rates, with some of the public health risks. ”

This is what happened in Chris Knudson’s business. Well 80 is a popular brewery in Olympia, Washington. It closed, reopened for take out, and resumed serving indoors at full capacity earlier this year. “A lot of the people who worked for us started working in other industries,” Knudson said. “One of our former managers works as an apprentice carpenter finisher; a former employee works as an executive assistant.

One kitchen worker who has moved is Kaylene Taylor. She is 38 years old and she moved to a restaurant after a career as a paralegal. His first job was at Well 80; she moved to another restaurant and was working as an assistant manager when the pandemic hit. She was fired, recalled part-time, fired and rehired.

“I couldn’t work enough hours, earn enough money,” she said. “It was a lot of work for little practical benefit. Emotionally, it was very gratifying; physically, the older you get, the more difficult it is to mop at midnight.

So Taylor resigned. “And I decided to go back to school – a masters program in psychology. I got a job at a law firm, doing what I did before, while I was preparing for my degree.

Dave Harris, 30, is another person who doesn’t look back. He was a mechanic at a Porsche dealership in Parsippany, New Jersey, when he was laid off at the start of the pandemic.

“I’m very tall, 6 feet 6 inches tall. It’s a little uncomfortable working on cars, ”he said. “I didn’t like it as much as I thought. And the money really wasn’t as good as I thought it would be either. Every time I told people I worked for a Porsche dealership, they’d say, ‘Oh great, do you drive a Porsche? And I’m like ‘No.’ ”

This summer, an insurance company hired him as an auto claims adjuster. “What attracted me was that I know the ins and outs of how cars work, how they are repaired, I know the industry. The benefits are really good, the pay is really good.

He earns about $ 54,000 a year now, almost double what he made repairing cars.

The pandemic has also turned things upside down for younger people who are also just starting out.

Jade Chavez and Aidan Wilcox, both 20, left Wichita, Kansas to explore new possibilities in sustainable farming and family ownership.  They are currently volunteering at a farm in southern Oregon.
Jade Chavez and Aidan Wilcox, both 20, left Wichita, Kansas to explore new possibilities in sustainable farming and family ownership. They are currently volunteering at a farm in southern Oregon. (Mitchell Hartman / Market)

Jade Chavez is 20 years old. She graduated from high school in Wichita, Kansas, and moved to New York City to begin a modeling career. “Within a month, the pandemic broke out,” Chavez said. “Trader Joe’s was empty, then the subway wasn’t safe, and eventually it brought me back to Wichita. Over the next year, I decided if the pandemic was happening and life was uncertain, then I was going to take the time and just – think it over. “

She worked in retail for a low wage and decided college was not financially feasible. Then, a few months ago, she hit the road. She now volunteers at an organic livestock farm in southern Oregon.

“It feels like a safer way to travel and to try to have life experiences, to kind of come of age into a world that isn’t very kind to young adults right now. . “

There is undoubtedly plenty of anecdotal evidence of workers changing jobs and exploring new careers as the pandemic continues and the economy struggles to reopen.

But according to management professor Peter Cappelli, director of the Wharton School’s Human Resources Center, other than a spike in people leaving their jobs, there isn’t much statistical evidence – for example, an increase in enrollment in schools. community colleges – to show this is an important trend.

“There’s just a lot of turnover in the workforce, and there is a lot of turnover,” Cappelli said. “We hear a lot of stories about people saying they’re looking for something different. We don’t have a lot of information to see if they actually do.

Cappelli pointed out that a similar phenomenon occurred after September 11. Many people have said that they want to radically change their professional life and find more interesting careers. But it is not clear that many of them did.

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