The Great Resignation: the mass exodus from the workforce

Aiden Keenan, Photo Editor

November saw more Americans leave their jobs than any other time in the last 20 years. In November 2021, more than 4.5 million workers resigned, almost equal to the amount from September.

The numbers of voluntary resignations have been on a consistent rise since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the smallest number of resignations since 2012 came in April of 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic.

If a person decides to quit their job in search of higher income, they will likely be successful. The economy is following previous trends; those who switch jobs see faster wage growth than those who remain at their current job. In November 2021, job switchers saw an average 4.3% income increase while job stayers only saw a 3.2% increase. For others still, the prospect of starting their own business enticed people to quit. Though this venture is typically riskier than finding another job, many Americans saw the opportunity to work for themselves during the pandemic.

Regionally, the Midwest saw a quit rate of 3.1% in November 2021. The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines the quit rate as “…the number of quits during the entire month as a percent of total employment.” The Northeast saw the lowest quit rate at only 2.5% while the West saw a rate of 2.8%; a the South had the highest rate at 3.5. It is unlikely that these numbers will decrease soon. 

Despite rises in quits, unemployment claims are near pre-pandemic levels while millions of jobs remain open. Only 184,000 people filed new unemployment claims during the first week in December. Despite the decrease in new claims, 1.9 million claims were continued while an average 1.6 million claims were continued in 2019. Despite remaining slightly above past numbers, the 1.9 million unemployment claims are only 10% of the amount from late 2020. 

Though many people are leaving their jobs in search of another, millions of Americans have left the workforce altogether. In fact, over 5 million people aged 55 or older retired since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Overall, roughly 3% of the American workforce voluntarily left their positions in the late months of 2021. Though all regions and most career fields have seen a reduction in the number of available workers, the food service, healthcare and warehouse industries have been most drastically impacted. 

Notably, roughly 10 million jobs are available in the workforce. This number will likely continue to rise at the beginning of 2022 as workers recognize the power they have on the economy. Many Americans who quit at the end of last year did so in search of a higher income; many were successful in finding exactly that.

Aiden Keenan is a senior at John Carroll University and is the photographer editor for The Carroll News. He can be reached through email at [email protected] or on Twitter @AidenJKeenan.