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The quitting economy

Why workers are quitting in record numbers.

Published This article is more than 2 years old.
  • The big idea

    Burnt-out workers are quitting their jobs at record rates, rolling the dice on the recovering US economy.

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  • By the digits

    4 million: Americans who quit their jobs in April 2021, about 740,000 in leisure and hospitality alone

    3.2%: Quits rate that month among private-sector employees

    1.3%: Quits rate in 2009 following the Great Recession, which dropped from 2% in 2008

    40%: Respondents to Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index who said they were considering leaving their employer

    15%: Typical voluntary churn rate at US companies as of 2018

    19.5%: Share of Americans who are retired, up from 18.5% at the beginning of 2020

    1 in 5: Health workers who said they have at least moderately considered quitting because of covid stress

    6: Months’ worth of savings that most experts suggest you have on hand for what some call a fuck-off fund before quitting a job

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  • Charting the quit rate among private sector workers

    In 2021, workers were quitting at the highest rate since 2000. It suggests that workers are confident about their ability to find better paying or more appealing employment somewhere else. 

    Read more: American workers are quitting at the highest rate in decades

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  • Billion dollar question

    What’s causing the Great Resignation?

    Here are several competing theories:

    ⌛ A backlog of people stayed in jobs they always planned to quit

    ⚖️ We’re rethinking the relationship between employers and employees 

    ✨ The rest of life seems more important now 

    😫 Burnout 

    ✊A push for racial equality 

    🚇 People don’t want to go back to the office

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  • Quotable

    “The data from my experiment suggests we would all be better off if we did more quitting. A good rule of thumb in decision making is, whenever you cannot decide what you should do, choose the action that represents a change, rather than continuing the status quo.”

    —Steven Levitt, University of Chicago economist and Freakonomics co-author

    Read more: An economist’s rule for making tough life decisions

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  • Quiz: Dream quitters

    Was this quitting scenario from a movie or real life?

    A Wall Street veteran writes an op-ed in a major daily newspaper explaining how his former employer, a global investment bank, sidelined client interests. The article doubles as his resignation letter.

    We’ll come right out with it: it was real life! In 2012, a former Goldman Sachs executive director named Greg Smith published his account of life at the firm in the New York Times. Now that’s quitting in style.

    Take the full quiz.

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  • Try this!

    So, are you ready to quit? Try our chatbot to find out.

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  • What to do once you’ve decided to leave a job

    ⏰ Give yourself time to leave gracefully (at least two weeks’ notice)

    💼 Tell your boss you’re quitting in a nice way—ideally in person or via video call

    👯 Tell the people you’re close to before they find out themselves

    Read more: When and how to quit your job, according to four experts and a chatbot

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  • Keep reading

    Quitting: a crash course (Quartz). Come for the brief history, stay for the classic clip of an epic resignation.

    What a year of Covid has done to work (Quartz). Our field guide on what has made work different, better, and harder during the pandemic—and what that means for the future. 

    What quitters understand about the job market (The Atlantic). Derek Thompson is optimistic that the Great Resignation could result in higher wages for workers of all stripes.

    The pandemic created a child care crisis. Mothers bore the burden (New York Times). A moving piece shining a light on the women faced with the conundrum: work or take care of the kids?

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