The Not So Great Resignation

Author: Sam Kuhn
12 Apr 22

Quits rates are near an all-time high, having reached 3.0% in November of 2021. Interpretations of this “Great Resignation” fall into two camps: some believe there has been a cultural shift where people have a lower willingness to work, while others say it’s a cyclic pattern exhibited during times of quick economic recovery.

Antiwork and WorkReform, two subreddits about worker’s rights and welfare, have gained an immense amount of popularity and media attention over the past two years. The ideas found in these subreddits aren’t revolutionary; people want to be properly compensated for the work they do and to be treated with dignity while doing it. The data has shown that it isn’t people quitting their jobs outright, but finding a more appealing position due to compensation or benefits.

Industries like retail and food services are experiencing the highest level of quits, but are also simultaneously gaining the most amount of jobs. Using the Manufacturing Labor Turnover Survey (MLTS), Bart Hobijn (an economist at Arizona State University) was able to benchmark quits rates to periods of fast economic growth like 1948 and 1973. When companies are hiring quickly, wages rise as they compete over labor supply and it becomes more appealing to find a new job. “The Great Resignation is actually better interpreted as a Great Renegotiation.” 

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