The Great Resignation continued into October with 4.2 million Americans quitting their jobs that month, according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hospitality and food, retail and arts, and entertainment and recreation continued to see high rates of workers quitting, although the numbers were down from summer peaks.
Workers continued to leave their jobs at record rates in health care, social assistance and nondurable goods manufacturing. Demand for new hires remains high in those industries as job openings continue to increase.
In some industries, hiring can barely keep up with separations, a broader measure that includes retirements, layoffs and resignations. The pandemic has spurred not only a record number of resignations, but also has caused a wave of early retirements that has increased separations across the labor market.
Although hundreds of thousands of workers were hired in October, so many left their jobs in some industries that total employment remained practically unchanged.
The health-care and social-assistance sectors experienced high rates of separations with relatively little hiring in October. Pandemic exhaustion is one factor in an area of the economy that has experienced record levels of quitting since March of this year. A majority of health-care workers have reported burnout, and some say morale has hit a new low this fall.
The labor market is also tight in retail, where workers have faced new strains under the pandemic and may have safety concerns in highly public-facing roles. Across all industries, the strong job market has prompted people to seek positions with higher pay and better conditions.
“The pandemic is in still in the driver’s seat,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at the job site Glassdoor. "A lot of people think the Great Resignation is about burned-out office workers, but it’s really about these front-line service workers in jobs where there are a lot of covid risks and also a tight labor market.”
For many, the Great Resignation has been an opportunity to reassess their career path after the enforced pause linked to lockdowns early in the pandemic. And not all who want to go back to work are finding the work and benefits they are seeking.
Whenever these workers are ready to return, the job market is ready for them, with a huge amount of demand in industries such as health care and food services, and in some cases, with big pay increases waiting.