Jobs and the Future of Work

The Great Resignation: Why 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September

Workers cross the street during the morning rush hour

On to greener pastures? Image: REUTERS/Toby Melville

Felix Richter
Data Journalist, Statista
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Future of Work

  • A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation.
  • The number of Americans quitting has now exceeded pre-pandemic highs for six straight months.
  • Employers, especially in low-wage sectors, are struggling to fill open positions.
  • One major driver appears to be that many workers are no longer willing to put up with the working conditions and pay accepted prior to the pandemic.

In the wake of the unprecedented jobs crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, a new trend has emerged in the U.S. labor market, as more and more Americans are quitting their jobs. According to the latest JOLTS report, a record number of 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation.

The number of Americans quitting has now exceeded pre-pandemic highs for six straight months, as employers, especially in low-wage sectors, are struggling to fill open positions. The reasons for this trend are of course manifold, but one major driver appears to be that many workers are no longer willing to put up with the pay and/or working conditions they (perhaps grudgingly) accepted prior to the pandemic. “I certainly think that the pandemic has led many people to reevaluate their work and their priorities and what they want to do,” Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute said in a statement to Business Insider.

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a chart showing the number of americans quitting their jobs
The trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. Image: Statista

The fact that the quit rate is particularly high in sectors with a large number of frontline workers, e.g. hospitality, health care and retail, suggests that safety concerns also play a role in the worker exodus, especially in face of the highly infectious Delta variant.

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