Here's Why the Great Resignation Is Finally Over (According to the Latest Jobs Report)

Declining job exodus signals a shift in workforce stability.
Updated July 11, 2024
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The latest U.S. jobs report reveals a significant trend — a decrease in the number of people leaving their jobs compared to previous months. This shift in workforce dynamics, highlighted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, signifies a notable change in employee behavior. As we delve into the numbers, it becomes clear that the era of mass resignations, known as the "Great Resignation," is waning, with workers now displaying a reluctance to risk their income by leaving their current jobs.

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The Great Resignation is over

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 47 million Americans voluntarily left their jobs in 2021, representing 23% of the total U.S. workforce. In 2022, another 38 million more quit.

This historic mass exit spurred by Covid-19 was called the “Great Resignation.” Many workers left their jobs for other jobs, but shortages quickly became apparent everywhere. In one of the few times in American labor market history, more jobs were available than willing participants to fill them. A confluence of factors led to the Great Resignation. 

Workers scared for their health and close-to-retirement age opted to retire early, while others chose remote work and making money online because of childcare center closures and the health risks of traditional office spaces. The labor market rules were rethought during the pandemic years and reshaped American labor markets entirely. 

Workers demanded higher pay, and in many instances, got it. Even McDonald’s started offering free iPhones and sign-on bonuses just to get people to work. Remote work became a standard expectation across many industries, and employers were forced to adapt.

The federal government also began sending out stimulus checks during this time, leading to less uncertainty and more confidence to leave or switch jobs. The ball was, for a short time, in the employee’s court.

This advantage though, was short-lived, as the labor tide has now started turning. While many of the benefits have spilled over — like more access to remote-hybrid work settings and pay expectations — the number of people quitting their jobs has significantly decreased from pandemic highs as the job market has become more beneficial to employers.

Decreased job openings and hires

The recent jobs report indicates that the number of job openings remained relatively stable at 8.8 million, down from the peak of 12.0 million in March 2022. Notably, the number of hires decreased to 5.5 million, marking a significant drop of 363,000. This decline in job openings and hires suggests that job seekers are taking a cautious approach, possibly influenced by a desire for job security amid economic uncertainties.

Quitting has declined

Within the separations category, voluntary quits (3.5 million) edged down, reflecting a decrease of 157,000. The quits rate, considered a measure of workers' willingness or ability to leave jobs, remained largely unchanged at 2.2%. Sectors like professional and business services and educational services experienced decreases in voluntary quits. 

This decline in quits is a key indicator that employees are now more hesitant to make abrupt career changes. Hesitations follow a year of economic volatility marked by abrupt market swings and soaring prices. Inflation has finally come down, but there has been a significant impact on the cost of living by prices that have sustained their higher levels, potentially contributing to the contrast in workers willing to quit their jobs this past year compared to a couple of years ago.

It is important to note that during the Great Resignation, prices and inflation have only started to climb from their historically low levels. The increased cost of living, prices, and difficult housing markets suggest an unwillingness for workers to leave their jobs with the ease they once did during the pandemic.

Layoffs and discharges

In November, the number of layoffs and discharges changed little at 1.5 million, with the rate remaining unchanged at 1.0%. Notable reductions in layoffs and discharges were observed in durable goods manufacturing. The overall stability in this aspect suggests a more conservative approach by employers, possibly contributing to the overall decrease in separations.

Bottom line

The declining trend in job separations, particularly voluntary quits, signifies a significant shift in the employment landscape. Employees are now more inclined to hold onto their current positions, reflecting a hesitancy to risk income and job security. 

As the job market continues to evolve, these trends suggest a potential stabilization in the workforce, with employees prioritizing stability and security over the previous trend of mass resignations. The upcoming months will be crucial in understanding whether this trend holds or undergoes further changes, especially in the face of potential interest rate cuts and continued market uncertainty.

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Author Details

Georgina Tzanetos Georgina Tzanetos is a former financial advisor who has been active in financial media for the past six years. She holds a master's in political economy from NYU, where she studied distressed labor markets.