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U.S. Employers’ Next Challenge: Handling the ‘Great Resignation’ Wave

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A strange thing happened as the U.S. started emerging from the pandemic: Rather than workers debating whether they wanted to go back to the office a few days a week or full-time, many just decided they didn’t want to go back at all. They quit.

The percentage of U.S. workers quitting their jobs in April rose to 2.7%, up 1.6% from April 2019 and the highest level since at least 2000, Labor Department data indicate. And job openings numbered nearly 9.3 million in April. All this with a 5.5% unemployment rate that rose to 5.8% in May

The result is employers raising wages and offering promotions to keep talent on board and increasing benefits to lure new workers.

“Many workers are burned out and feel mistreated and/or ignored during the pandemic,” Ira Wolfe, president and chief Googlization officer at Success Performance Solutions, said in an email to The Food Institute. “There are dozens of reasons and lots of excuses. But the bottom line is simply supply and demand – skilled and qualified workers have choices.”


“Traditionally, large enterprises like Google and Apple have been viewed as the dream workplace because they leverage unlimited resources to offer perks,” said Dominik Pantelides, CEO and co-founder of PERKS. “However, now, due to COVID-19 expediting companies’ utilization of tech, job-seekers realize organizations of any size or location have the ability to access and provide perks, virtually.”

Overall, reasons for quitting are numerous. Some workers are burned out by the stresses created by the pandemic, whether it be company downsizing or having to juggle work and child-care responsibilities. Others have decided to focus on what they really want out of life. Fully 10% of women quit their jobs during the pandemic while 47% took unpaid sick leave, Kaiser Family Foundation reported (March 22).

“People are seeing the world differently,” talent consultant Steve Cadigan told The Wall Street Journal (June 13). “It’s going to take time for people to think through, ‘How do I unattach where I’m at and reattach to something new?’ We’re going to see a massive shift in the next few years.”


Economists have dubbed the trend “the great resignation,” with surveys indicating at least 25% of workers thinking about quitting their jobs. A Microsoft survey indicated 54% of Gen Z workers, who make up 41% of the global workforce, are considering resigning.

“I don’t envy the challenge that human resources faces right now,” Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, told Axios (June 14).

“I think we are at an inflection point at which many people are reconsidering the particulars of their lives and of work-life balance,” J.P. Gownder, a principal analyst at Forrester, told TechRepublic (May 25).