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Joblist’s Q3 2021 Report Details Volatile, Transitioning U.S. Employment Market

With rising Delta variant concerns, “Great Resignation” gains momentum; Hospitality workers become more dissatisfied.
Victoria Strauss et al. posing for the camera

The summer resurgence of COVID-19, attributed to the Delta variant, has had a profound effect on the U.S. employment picture, according to the Q3 2021 U.S. Job Market Report announced today by job search platform Joblist, aWilbur Labs company. Among the key findings, American workers are quitting their jobs at unprecedented rates, despite a difficult market in which job seeker confidence measures dropped in Q3 for the first time since November 2020.

More than 18 months into the pandemic, a previously improving employment picture now appears murky, according to Joblist’s study that surveyed over 25,000 job seekers nationwide over the past three months. Topline figures describe the transitions taking place:

  • Many employees are unhappy, with 73% of employed workers actively thinking about quitting their jobs. Employees who have already quit their jobs cite poor treatment by their employer during the pandemic (19%), low pay or lack of benefits (17%) and lack of work-life balance (13%) among the key reasons.
  • One-third of current hospitality workers report being “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with their jobs – and 58% say they are planning to quit before the end of 2021.
  • 83% of job seekers with school-age children say their kids are returning to in-school instruction this fall; 22% say that their children’s return to school will make their job search easier.

“Great Resignation” Trend is Here to Stay

The Q3 report found that of a sample of more than 7,000 jobs seekers across the U.S., 22% willingly quit their previous job. The share is even larger among unemployed job seekers (35% compared to 14% still employed full-time), indicating many people quit without having another job lined up. Workers in their twenties (roughly one-third) are more likely to have quit their previous jobs than either older workers (20%) or teenagers. Perhaps most telling about the future: 73% of currently-employed workers say they are actively considering quitting their jobs.

Workers are Unhappy

Employees have a variety of reasons for quitting, with COVID-19 being only one factor. Nearly one-fifth of employees who quit in the last year cited poor treatment by their employer during the pandemic (19%), roughly the same percentage as those who quit in order to pursue a career change. Among teachers, the top reason for quitting was the need for a break or better work-life balance, while hospitality and retail workers left predominantly due to low pay and lack of benefits. Warehouse workers were much more likely to quit because they were seeking a new career or were unhappy with employer treatment during the pandemic. Interestingly, less than 3% of all workers who quit claimed it was because they didn’t want to return to in-person work.

Hospitality Labor Shortage May Worsen

The hospitality industry, which includes restaurants, bars, and hotels, has often faced high employee turnover rates. However, the segment may be facing its most challenging period ever. Forty-five percent of hospitality workers who have remained in the industry report lower job satisfaction now than before the pandemic, and only 9% reported higher satisfaction. Dissatisfied hospitality workers are twice as likely to say they are planning on quitting than those who are satisfied (80% compared to 39%), indicating that the labor shortage affecting the industry might get worse before it gets better.

Return to In-Person Schooling Helps Parents

The return to classroom learning has had a dramatic impact on the ability of parents to conduct a job search, according to the report. Twenty-two percent of working parents expect that the return of their children to in-person learning will make their job search easier. Mothers, especially, anticipate an easier job search (25% versus 17% for fathers).

Job Confidence Drops Due to Delta Variant

Just three months after job seeker confidence reached its highest levels of the COVID-19 era, the onset of the Delta variant caused a steep drop. In September, only 34% of job seekers said they expect the job market to improve next month, down from a high of 43% in June. Yet some bright spots were identified; the share of job seekers who view the job market as “easy” increased slightly over the quarter (from 16% in July to 19% in September). Further buoying the picture are the nearly 11 million job openings currently available – a record since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began collecting the data in 2000.

“Many American workers are frustrated by their employment situation and are taking a step back to consider other options. However, our Q3 report indicates that one-third of workers who are thinking about quitting would change their minds if just some of their grievances were addressed by their employer,” noted Kevin Harrington, CEO of Joblist. “Employers would do well to listen to employee concerns and make adjustments where possible. The power is shifting more and more to the workers, and employers will need to be responsive in order to attract and retain talent.”

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