Switchers, Not Quitters: Workers Leave Jobs for More Pay

Off the Charts: The Visual Says It All

Restaurant worker taking a delivery order by phone
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Switchers, not quitters, is probably a better way to describe the record number of people leaving jobs these days. They’re not exiting the workforce, just heading for greener pastures.

While the high number of so-called “quits” has received a lot of attention, experts say the missing piece to the puzzle is that many of them are taking other jobs. This means the job market is strong, and the unemployment rate will likely hit pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2022, some economists said. The unemployment rate in December fell to 3.9%, within striking distance of the 3.5% rate in February 2020.

The number of people who voluntarily left their jobs has been trending higher since the pandemic started in March 2020, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and in November it reached the highest level since 2000, when the BLS survey began. The chart below shows how the quits rate has soared.

But the workers who are leaving one job are often stepping directly into another.

In the accommodation and food services sector, for example, the quits rate is high but so is wage growth, which “implies workers are leaving their jobs to take jobs with higher pay, likely often within the same sector,” said Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, in a commentary. “Hiring continues to outpace the number of quits, and the labor force continues to claw its way back after a huge drop in the spring of 2020.” 

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