The Great Resignation Is Only Great in a Few Industries

Off the Charts: The Visual Says It All

Deliveryman leaving a fast food restaurant with freshly made meals and waving to a female employee as he walking out the door
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SrdjanPav / Getty Images

Yes, workers are quitting in droves, but when you drill down into the data, it turns out the unusually high turnover is pretty concentrated in a few sectors.

It’s true that overall, people are quitting their jobs at the fastest pace seen since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking that statistic in 2000, but a lot of the churn is at restaurants, hotels, and retailers. As the chart below shows, the phenomenon dubbed “The Great Resignation” might actually be called The Great Restaurant Resignation or even The Great Retail Resignation.

In November, the most recent month for which data is available, the quit rate for the category that includes restaurants and hotels—called food services and accommodation in the chart above—topped all other industries tracked by the bureau and was more than double the record overall rate of 3% (a high also seen in September). On the other hand, the quit rate for manufacturing jobs actually dipped slightly, to 2.3%. In fact, many industries saw a quit rate below the overall pre-pandemic average of a little over 2%.

Workers “aren’t quitting in droves across all sectors of the economy,” Boston University researcher Jay Zagorsky wrote in a recent analysis. “While quits are higher than usual in most industries, a few sectors are responsible for most of the turnover, with some lower than their recent peaks.” 

The number of people quitting is a sign of how much power employees have in today’s job market, but it’s particularly pronounced in lower-wage jobs where employers struggling to hire and retain workers have boosted wages at a faster-than-average clip.

Have a question, comment, or story to share? You can reach Diccon at dhyatt@thebalance.com.

Article Sources

  1. The Conversation. “The Great Resignation: Historical Data and a Deeper Analysis Show It’s Not As Great as Screaming Headlines Suggest.” Accessed Jan. 19, 2022.

  2. Federal Reserve Economic Data. “Quits: Total Nonfarm.” Accessed Jan. 19, 2022.

  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Table 4. Quits Levels and Rates by Industry and Region, Seasonally Adjusted.” Accessed Jan. 19, 2022.

  4. Federal Reserve Economic Data. “Average Hourly Earnings of All Employees, Leisure and Hospitality.” Accessed Jan. 19, 2022.

  5. Institute for Supply Management. “December 2021 Services ISM® Report on Business.” Accessed Jan. 19, 2022.