Nearly 4 million Americans quit their jobs in July, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This has been a trend for months. In April it was 3.99 million. By June that number had dropped to 3.87 million. And in July it reached 3.98 million.
If you are considering changing jobs, you likely have a list of reasons to do so. Here we take a closer look at the trend and try to understand the factors that lead to mass exodus.
A big shock
Our lives are full of shocks, some good and some less good. For example, getting to know a new partner can be seen as a good shock, while a dying relative or a divorce is a bad shock. Every significant event in our life – good or bad – reshapes us a little and stimulates us to self-reflection.
Usually, tremors are like a series of gentle waves and don’t hit millions of us at the same time. The COVID-19 pandemic was more of a tsunami that spread across the globe. Billions of people have been affected, millions have died, and some are still clinging to their version of the reality that none of this happens.
For many of us it was a time to rethink our lives. When we are reminded that no one guarantees long life, we turned inward and wondered if we were happy and if our work was meaningful.
And for millions, the answer is no.
► Job change: Americans finish their jobs at record speed
The rich get richer
Billionaires ‘net worth grew 54% between March 18, 2020 and March 18, 2021, according to an analysis by the Institute for Policy Studies’ Inequality Program.
As the wealth at the top grows, most of us realize that we are at the bottom. Not only is it tough on the ego, it inevitably makes us stop and say, “What am I doing? Do I really want to trade decades of my life for a little money in the bank and even less satisfaction just to make someone else incredible.” rich?”
It’s easy to see why a hard-working person with myriad of unexplored talents might want to go into business for themselves, or at least find a job that better suits them. For example, when Warren Buffett famously said he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary, he made an excellent argument: everyday people are unlikely to take the same breaks as the rich.
Buffett has long advocated a tax system that requires billionaires to pay their fair share of taxes. While the “Buffett Rule” has been promoted in Washington for years, Republican lawmakers have refused to support such a move.
Delta is real and it’s terrifying
Despite those who call it a joke, 653,000 Americans died of COVID-19 in early September, according to the New York Times. The Washington Post reports that 1,500 people die from the Delta variant every day. However, according to Our World in Data, 46% of eligible recipients are not fully vaccinated. That makes the fear one might have about going back to work reasonable.
When people wonder if it makes sense to risk their lives for a company, the answer is often a resounding “no way”. If it ever made sense to start their own business, get a job that allows them to work virtually, or move to a company with mandatory vaccinations, now is it.
Job vacancies available
Even if millions of Americans didn’t quit their jobs, there would still be a surplus of vacancies. In fact, the number of vacancies has continued to grow over the past seven months, hitting a record high of 10.9 million, according to Business Insider.
The reality is that the pandemic has shown how easily a job could disappear. And while workers on leave stayed at home worrying about how to get the food on their tables, the news reached them that a whole segment of the population was getting richer by the day. It is enough to inspire everyone to look for a better way.
When workers were expected to return to unsatisfactory jobs, many were no longer interested in working 40 hours a week and still getting by. When the Republican-led states cut unemployment benefits and were certain that the move would push millions back into work, it did not happen immediately. According to Arindrajit Dube, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, unemployed Americans did not rush back to find a job after losing their unemployment benefits.
At this point we can only speculate as to why people are quitting their jobs en masse or not rushing to get back to them. It could be because the reality of the life and death of COVID-19 convinced them that it isn’t a job worth dying for. They may be looking for higher paying positions or may have decided that working in a low wage job is not worthwhile when childcare and other work-related expenses are covered.
The fact that employees are going in droves may also have to do with the number who have chosen to become their own boss. According to Upwork, 10 million Americans are considering freelance work. 73% of this number cite the ability to work remotely or to have a flexible work schedule as the main reason.
It’s not just money
According to FlexJobs, 85% of respondents say they are willing to accept a pay cut for a job that is “right” for them. Perhaps all of the self-reflection has convinced us that we want to spend our days doing something that is important to us and not just filling a job that can be cut at any time.
And for anyone who suddenly realized that they don’t want to live apart from their loved ones in the next global emergency, it makes sense to quit the job and move out of the area.
As Americans progress through this phase of growth and reflection, it is up to companies to find ways to make employees feel valued and part of a community. This becomes a challenge given the number of companies layoffs just ahead of an annual stockholders’ meeting to temporarily cut costs and increase profits. The same companies that have dehumanized and devalued their workforce need to find creative ways to regain their trust.
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