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Workers quit in record numbers with 'no regrets'

A record number of workers quit their jobs in April, according to the latest available date from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Pexels)

Welcome to the Great Resignation.

Amid a flurry of job openings across the U.S., workers are quitting their jobs en masse.

A record 4 million people quit their jobs in April, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And many others are considering joining them. In a recent poll of 649 employed workers, Monster found that 95% were considering quitting their jobs and 92% were willing to switch industries for a new role.

Jacqueline Moreno, 22, quit her sales job in the Austin office of a publicly traded financial advisory firm on June 8, despite not having a new job lined up. She had accepted the position after graduating from Texas State University with a degree in public relations in the early months of the pandemic. But she found the role wasn't a good fit. Her starting position as a contractor routinely had her working 55 to 60 hours a week, and she struggled to make ends meet, applying for food stamps. "I want to be happy and not dread going to work," she said.

Moreno's not alone. Workers are looking for better pay, remote options and work-life balance. Some have built up a financial safety net with stimulus payments that allows them to spend time between jobs. Others are worried about workplace safety given the lingering pandemic, and many are burnt out or acting on pent-up frustrations.

"Combined, higher employee burnout and enhanced financial security is a recipe for increased resignations," Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, wrote in a May 30 opinion piece for NBC News.

The labor market is also hot, which means workers feel confident they will be able to find a new and better job. "Whenever openings are higher, quits are higher," according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Before quitting, Moreno spent about a month clandestinely applying for jobs in the public relations and communications sector. She has received two offers but turned them down. "There's a lot of job openings," she said. "I just want to make sure I'm finding a really good fit, long term."

Employers in Austin and around the country are offering higher wages and improved benefits in an effort to recruit and retain workers.

Still companies are contending with a worsening labor shortage, which spans industries and predates the pandemic, leaving job seekers with the upper hand. The average lowest wage a worker without a college degree would be willing to accept for a new job is now $61,482, an all-time high, according to the New York Fed's latest labor market survey. For college graduates, the average lowest wage is $86,460.

If unemployed workers flood into the labor market in search of new jobs, it could turn the tide. Texas opted out of all federal unemployment assistance programs on June 26, months earlier than the expected cutoff in early September. Gov. Greg Abbott cited the current number of job openings and potentially fraudulent unemployment claims as reasons for the decision.

But other factors could prolong the Great Resignation, including COVID fears and care responsibilities. A recent study by the Austin-based jobs site Indeed found that only 10% of people between 18 and 64 were urgently searching for work. And job searches remain muted in around half of the states that opted out of federal unemployment benefits.

Moreno is optimistic about the Austin jobs market. "I have no regrets at all," she said of quitting. "I think I made the right decision completely."


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