Where are all the workers? Three reasons workers are resigning at record rates

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Where are all the workers?

That is a fairly constant question these days. Not just for businesses trying to stay open but for consumers feeling the changes.

In August alone, 4.3 million Americans resigned from their workplace.

Historically, the number one reason for people quitting their jobs is having a bad boss – and while a bad boss is still a large motivator driving people to quit, other factors have started to come into play.

Dr. Luiggi Donayre, an associate professor of economy at UMD, says many issues in the workforce were prevelant long before the pandemic.

"If you look at the quit rate, the quit rate is the highest it’s ever been in the US since we’ve been recording the data. It’s at almost 3%. That’s 4.3 million people that are quitting their jobs now, and we have almost 11 million job openings."

However, during the pandemic, more reasons surfaced. Data from Gallup research shows there are three big causes for people quitting their jobs:

  1. Not seeing opportunities for development
  2. Not feeling connected to the company’s purpose
  3. Not having good relationships with their workplace

The question on the minds of many: why?

"It’s a realization of some structural problems in the labor market that have been going on for a long time that have just been put in the spotlight by COVID," said Donayre.

Those problems extending to our local labor market, too.

"The challenge that we continue to face is a workforce shortage and that’s something that’s been happening even before the pandemic started," said Elena Foshay, director at Workforce Development in Duluth. "It’s just gotten a little bit worse over the course of the pandemic."

Foshay says the area’s workforce is seeing quite a bit of reshuffling in the labor market – whether it’s people changing jobs, or reevaluating what matters to them. That has caused many to look for a different type of work environment, work schedule, and even new occupations and career tracks.

When it comes to not feeling connected to the company’s purpose, many workers have begun thinking twice about their workplace culture.

"I think a lot of people are looking for a place where they’re happier or feel challenged," said Foshay. "Maybe they’ve been in the same job for a long time are were ready to do something new or different."

And the third reason — not having good relationships with their workplace — reinforces that having bad boss is still a big motivator to leave a job, but also that there are a lot of toxic workplaces out there.

"There are many sectors in the US that have been notorious for creating a bad labor environment," echoed Donayre. "For the longest time, people basically went through the motions in those sectors because they assumed that they didn’t have any other options."

For many, the pandemic acting as a final push for workers who were thinking of making those changes.

Donayre likening many working experiences to bad relationships.

"Once you’re in a bad relationship sometimes it’s very difficult to see that. And that’s what COVID was. COVID forced a lot of people to step out of that bad working relationship."

For Elizabeth Mayne, a Duluth based graphic designer, the pandemic encouraged her to make what was once her side job her full time business.

"I had always kind of thought, ‘wouldn’t it be great to take this full time?’ But I honestly was way too afraid to do it because I’m a single mom of three kids and it was really scary to think of doing that," said Mayne.

After juggling her previous marketing gig with Mayne Design, she bravely committed herself to putting all her focus on growing her business.

"If it didn’t work, I knew that I have the skills — I could probably go find another job. But the more that I do it, the more confident I become that this was the right choice."

And Mayne is not alone. That workplace flexibility is becoming a motivator for many people looking for new roles in the Twin Ports.

This shift in workplace "must haves" is forcing industries who can’t offer that flexibility to offer other incentives to compete.

"I think across the board, a lot of employers who are able to are raising wages," Foshay said. "We’ve seen that everywhere. The last statistic I saw for the state of Minnesota is that wages on average have gone up 7.5%"

As the expectations of workers change, the workforce is pushed to change with it.

No solutions to these industry issues are simple enough to make overnight, so for the time being, experts say that it’s likely these trends will continue.