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The great resignation
Sensemaker Audio

The great resignation

The great resignation

More workers than ever before are quitting their jobs. Why?

Transcript

Hi, I’m Claudia and this is the Sensemaker. 

One story, everyday, to make sense of the world. 

Today, the figures are stark: 4.5 million Americans quit their job in August. In the UK, that number stands at 791,000. And the numbers show no sign of slowing down. So, what’s going on? 

***

“Antiwork: Unemployment for all, not just the rich!”

That’s the name of a forum on the social media network, reddit. 

It used to be a fairly small community with people posting grievances about their bosses, anti-capitalist memes and anti work literature.  

But recently it’s exploded. 

In February the page had 235,000 members (or idlers as they preferred to be called) – now that number stands at 706,000. 

They’re a community who, quote, “want to end work, want to get the most out of a work-free life and want personal help with their own jobs and work-related struggles.”

But it’s not just a space to fantasise about quitting your job.

The page is filled with screenshots of people, colourfully, quitting their jobs for real. The posts have taken social media by storm, regularly racking up tens of thousands of shares and likes. 

And it seems they’re not the only ones who are sick of working.

*** 

In April this year, the number of American workers who quit their job in a month was the highest on record.  

4.3 million Americans left their jobs in August alone, that’s the highest number since 2000. Experts say workers are looking for better opportunities better hours and more perks trouble.

Good Morning America

The industries that have been hit the hardest include hospitality, healthcare and retail. 

But it’s also happening in the corporate world too, with women more likely to quit because of the desire for a better work life balance. 

And it’s not just happening in the US. 

Problems on the demand side and also on the supply side but it means this is probably the tightest labor market that we’ve seen in about 40 or 50 years this has been we’ve never had this many vacancies for the number of job seekers.

GB News

In the UK the latest figures show that between April and June 791,000 people – which is about 2.6 per cent of the workforce – left their job for another one. 

For context, the last time it was higher than this was in March 2008, during the height of the global financial crisis.

Economists have called it: 

The great resignation that’s what some experts are calling the…

CNBC

The so-called great resignation…

7News Australia

People are quitting their jobs in droves in what’s been dubbed the great resignation…

CNBC

The great resignation. 

So what’s going on? Are people quitting their jobs in droves?  And why?

***

Over the last decade the number of resignations in the US and the rate of resignations has slowly been climbing and then in 2020 due to the pandemic that completely levelled out. And so I thought there’s probably a backlog of individuals.

VOA News

That’s Dr Anthony Klotz, the academic who coined the term, “the great resignation”. He’s a Professor of Business Administration at Texas A&M University. And he saw the big quit coming before most people… 

He thinks that Covid19 was an accelerant – not a cause – of the trend.  It’s been building for the last decade.

In the UK, during the years following the financial crash in 2008, unemployment was high. 

Jobs were asking more and more from potential candidates – from never ending rounds of interviews to longer working hours and extra responsibilities that were not explicitly stated in the posting.   

At the same time wages have remained stagnant for decades.

And working conditions have grown to be more precarious. 

But the economy rallied in 2018 and 2019. And as it did, resignations started to increase. Unsurprisingly, there was a big drop in the number of people leaving their jobs in 2020 because of the pandemic. 

But it’s perhaps fair to say now that that trend was only put on pause. Now hundreds of thousands of people are quitting their jobs in the UK. 

So what’s causing this exodus? 

***

There are quite a few individual reasons for people to quit… 

There’s also heightened levels of burnout across the economy from frontline workers to the executive suite. The third one is probably the most difficult and that’s the shift in identity or the pandemic epiphanies people have had and decided to make major shifts in their life during the pandemic and so in many cases that may lead to them switching their jobs and then finally. The one that gets a lot of the attention which is individuals who have been working remotely for the last year and a half many are excited to return to the office but a number of them are not.

Washington Post Live

But ultimately this all boils down to choice. People feel comfortable leaving their jobs because there’s plenty of work available.

Demand has finally exploded and many economies around the world are recovering a lot faster than originally expected. 

And to meet these demands, businesses need to grow, and to grow they need to hire talent. But this demand for workers is outpacing the market’s supply, which has led to a record number of vacancies.

Between July and September the number of job vacancies in the UK hit 1.1 million, the highest on record, 

It’s now an employee’s market. 

Some say that the number of people quitting their jobs is usually a good indicator of the health of the labour market. 

The logic goes something like this: people are far more likely to quit when there are lots of opportunities – conversely they’re more likely to stick around in a job they don’t like when unemployment is high 

And the data backs this up. 

According to a leading economic forecaster the UK economy is growing at its fastest rate in 80 years as we pull out of the coronavirus recession. 

And workers are taking this newfound power to negotiate better pay, better working conditions and more security. 

So even when these numbers eventually level out, workers are hoping to find themselves in a more just and equitable labour market. 

Today’s story was written by Nimo Omer and produced by Ella Hill.