Jon Talton: People are quitting their jobs in record numbers. What will they do instead?

Jon Talton, The Seattle Times on

Published in Business News

Dear Editor,

Sorry to leave you in the lurch this week but I quit.


That’s a joke for me (get it, boss?), but across America this is another COVID-induced trend with records of people quitting.

Dubbed “The Great Resignation,” the causes are many. Among them: Health concerns, long-growing unhappiness with a job brought into focus by the pandemic, the prospect of ending remote work and people retiring sooner than planned.

Data back this up. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national “quit” rate (part of the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey or JOLTS), jumped to 3% of the nonfarm workforce in September. That’s the highest number since tracking began 20 years ago. In September alone, 4.4 million people voluntarily left their jobs.


But that’s not the whole story. Hiring is strong, too. In September, employers hired 2 million-plus more workers than those who quit, although national employment is still below pre-COVID levels.

Economists at Barclays produced a report saying “the Great Resignation” will be temporary:

“We believe that this resignation dynamic is mostly a symptom of other underlying forces that are affecting labor market participation, rather than a cause,” according to Barclays deputy chief U.S. economist Jonathan Millar.

“Indeed, the high quit rate is a red herring for understanding the sluggish return of workers to the US labor market following the COVID-19 pandemic, in our view,” Millar continued. “Instead, the true cause is a hesitation of workers to return to the labor force, due to influences tied to the pandemic such as infection risks, infection-related illness, and a lack of affordable child care.”


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