Mark Meadors had had enough of his COVID work life.
Since late last year, the 31-year-old has spent more than 70 hours a week working four jobs — a full-time human resources position for a construction company and part-time appearances at a grocery store, boat dealer and in the Air Force reserves.
Meadors, who lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, took the part-time job because he felt his construction HR position was not stable as the pandemic ravaged the industry.
But the grind left him exhausted and left with little time to spend with his wife and five children. So with the surging number of job openings, Meadors recently left the HR, grocery, and boat dealer positions to take a more secure human resources job at a university. He continued his duties in the Air Force Reserves.
“It was a relief,” said Meadors, who left the Air Force in 2019. “I have to provide for my family’s needs and I have to be there for them.”
Is the growth fading? Is the economy’s great comeback beginning to fade?
The easing pandemic and the reopening of the economy have led to an unprecedented reshuffling of the US workforce. Americans are quitting jobs in record numbers, mostly to take another position.
According to a Joblist survey for USA TODAY, they are mostly on the road to making the most of a historic burst of job opportunities, often at higher wages. Many are changing jobs because they are burnt out after working so hard during the pandemic or finally starting to look for a job they put off during the health crisis, according to the results of the Joblist survey, which includes online tools offers to job seekers.
An unusually large proportion are making the jump to another industry that is less vulnerable to the vagaries of the economy or more aligned with their dreams and family-oriented lifestyles, according to the Joblist survey and other data.
And many white-collar workers now prefer to work from home permanently after doing so during the pandemic, a dynamic that is likely to lead to another job change this fall as some companies require employees to return to the office, experts say. .
After being stuck in their jobs due to the shaky economy, “people are starting to come back and apply” for new positions, said Karin Kimbrough, LinkedIn’s chief economist. The trend, she adds, means “a very healthy job market” and should lead to a more productive economy “that matches the right person with the right job”.
Initially, however, the shift could hurt productivity, or output per employee, as employees learn their new roles, said Jim McCoy, senior vice president of talent solutions for ManpowerGroup, a major staffing agency.
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For some companies, the revenue could help alleviate a dire shortage of workers, in part because Americans choose to receive generous unemployment benefits or care for children who have learned at home while schools are closed. For other companies, the turnover in the labor market makes it more difficult to retain existing employees.
4 million say, ‘I quit’
A record 4 million workers left their jobs in May, according to figures from the Ministry of Labor. The number fell to 3.6 million in June, but that is still an all-time high. And according to the June jobs report, the number of people who resigned voluntarily rose by a record 164,000 last month
The main driver? Opportunity.
“It’s a sign of how strong the demand for labor is,” said Nick Bunker, chief economist at job site Indeed.
According to this week’s Joblist/USA TODAY survey of 1,011 workers, about 35% of workers changed jobs in the past year. Employees usually quit a job to take another job, but some may leave to start their own businesses, freelance, or take a few months off, says Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter, the online job marketplace.
About 63% of those planning to change jobs in the next six months cited the plethora of job opportunities, many at higher wages, amid a resurgent economy set to deliver the fastest growth in decades, the survey shows. Joblist survey.
There were a record 9.2 million openings in May, according to figures from the Ministry of Labor. And in June, average wages rose 7.1% a year in leisure and hospitality, including restaurants and hotels, and 6.2% in retail.
Another 39.6% of workers said they postponed their job search during the pandemic but now feel comfortable enough to go hunting, according to the survey. And 32.8% said they are tired of working so hard during the crisis and that they need change.
Many health care workers, restaurants, shops and delivery drivers worked long hours. And employees often sat at their computers day and night, in some cases to relieve fired colleagues.
“People are burned out,” Kimbrough says. And after employees took refuge in their existing jobs for months, “there’s a lot of pent-up demand to switch.”
Restaurants, hotels, shops and factories, all of which struggle to find workers, offer signing bonuses and offer higher wages, McCoy says, causing many workers to jump from one job to another.
Juggling jobs ‘wasn’t sustainable’
Meadors, who worked in the supermarket’s meat department and boat dealer’s customer service along with HR and army reserve appearances, says juggling the four jobs “wasn’t sustainable.” “I didn’t want that,” says Meadors, who also worked in human resources when he served in the Air Force. “I felt I had to do it because of insecurity.”
He applied for occasional human resources jobs earlier this year, but got no nibbles. But after reapplying in the spring, he found himself suddenly juggling six or seven interviews at a time.
“It started to grow,” he says. While the pay at college is about the same as his HR job in construction, the benefits and total compensation are significantly higher, he says.
Many workers leave their chosen field. About 30% of Joblist respondents who changed jobs also changed industries in the past year. And 55.8% of the job changes recorded by LinkedIn in April were from one industry to another. Industries that lost jobs during the pandemic — such as restaurants, hotels, retail and energy — generally saw workers slip. Those who did well — healthcare, software, finance and real estate — had relatively few employees leaving, LinkedIn data shows.
For example, many recreation and travel workers have transitioned into new careers in software and information technology, consumer goods, healthcare and finance, Kimbrough says.
Overall, the health crisis has led many Americans to pursue their passions.
“The pandemic was a moment of forced reflection,” Kimbrough says, adding that many people wondered, “What would I rather be doing?”
‘I have my foot in the door’
After graduating from college in May 2020, Shane Eyermann, of St. Louis, couldn’t find a job in his favorite field of medical sales — or any kind of sales — so he took a position handling insurance claims for a freight company. . “It was repetitive,” he says.
This year, however, he saw more job openings for sales positions and recently got one as a sales representative for a company that makes synthetic colors for the food and paint industries. The salary is $15,000 higher than his previous job, which allows him to leave his parents’ house.
“I’m excited,” he says. “I got my foot in the door.”
For companies, musical chairs on the labor market are a mixed bag.
Felix Media Solutions, which installs video conferencing systems in corporate offices, has several job openings for technicians and project managers, and at least a third of applicants leave restaurant or hotel jobs, CEO Lionel Felix said.
“We see them en masse,” says the head of the Austin, Texas-based company with 25 employees. “I’ve never seen this before. They say, ‘I want to do something completely different and I want to learn a skill and a trade.’”
Felix says restaurant and hotel workers, especially managers, are ideal candidates because they’ve taken on multiple jobs and “I know they’ll be on time… It’s all about transferable skills.”
Meanwhile, Aaron VanderGalien, CEO of Deksia, a marketing firm, says four of his 10 interns recently turned down entry-level jobs to get better-paying positions at competing companies, he says. Normally, all of his interns accept his job offers, he says. A few experienced employees also left the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based company for higher salaries elsewhere, though one returned.
VanderGalien struggles with how he can compete with other offers, which are typically 10 to 20% higher than what he pays, so he can keep his employees. He offers sign-up bonuses and one-time bonuses to employees who stay for a certain period of time. But he is hesitant to raise salaries permanently.
“It will cripple our business,” he says, especially if the now-strong inflation slows as expected, along with the rates he can charge customers. “I can’t lower my pay later.”
Ari Brown, owner of a 10-employee pediatric practice in Austin, recently lost two important medical assistants.
“It was virtually impossible to replace them,” he wrote in an email. “I think people are tired of working in the medical field, especially for the typical salaries paid to medical assistants, with a lack of flexibility/remote work opportunities.”
While job switching has cooled off a bit lately, LinkedIn Kimbrough expects another big wave this fall as companies begin to require employees to come back to the office.
Twenty percent of employees surveyed by ZipRecruiter this month say they will be looking for work that can be done from home. Meanwhile, most US companies have said they want their employees back in the office at least some of the time after the pandemic.
McCoy says some IT and corporate workers are already leaving for telecommuting jobs, often moving to lower cost countries.
“I think there’s more to come,” Kimbrough says.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Changing jobs: Americans are quitting work in record time