Where are all of the Workers? The Great Resignation Explained

HALLANDALE, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 21: A Now Hiring sign hangs near the entrance to a Winn-Dixie Supermarket on September 21, 2021 in Hallandale, Florida. Government reports indicate that Initial jobless benefit claims rose 20,000 to 332,000 in the week ended Sept. 11. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Dr. David Childs, D.D., Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University

Getty; Adam Maida / The Atlantic

Have you noticed lately that when you go to many public places there seems to be a shortage of staffing (Not to mention a lack of product and materials, but that is for a different article). In terms of a shortage of staffing, when we go to our local grocery store to do shopping there are very few workers available to check out our items. Or when we go to a fast food restaurant the lines are unusually long. Further, when receiving or sending mail through the United States Postal Service, it seems that it has been taking longer than usual to receive or send packages or letters. This labor shortage is in many ways connected to the ongoing and relentless pandemic and its devastating impact on our economy. It has been a perfect storm. Workers in sectors such as the meat packing industry, the shipping industry and warehouses began to be sick from the pandemic which resulted in a shortage of workers. Further, when the world was in quarantine and people either lost their jobs or worked from home, they no longer accepted the fact that they needed to be on site daily to get work done or had to accept low wages for a thankless job. All in all, we are experiencing the global effects of people simply deciding not to come to work. Experts are calling this phenomenon the Great Resignation. Derek Thompson, in his October Atlantic article entitled “The Great Resignation Is Accelerating” states that “a lasting effect of this pandemic will be a revolution in worker expectation.”

Getty- Forbes.com

“The Great Resignation Is Accelerating”
Thompson offers more insight on this phenomenon in his article. He states “I first noticed that something weird was happening this past spring. In April, the number of workers who quit their job in a single month broke an all-time U.S. record. Economists called it the “Great Resignation.” But America’s quittin’ spirit was just getting started. In July, even more people left their job. In August, quitters set yet another record. That Great Resignation? It just keeps getting greater. “Quits,” as the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls them, are rising in almost every industry. For those in leisure and hospitality, especially, the workplace must feel like one giant revolving door. Nearly 7 percent of employees in the “accommodations and food services” sector left their job in August. That means one in 14 hotel clerks, restaurant servers, and barbacks said sayonara in a single month. Thanks to several pandemic-relief checks, a rent moratorium, and student-loan forgiveness, everybody, particularly if they are young and have a low income, has more freedom to quit jobs they hate and hop to something else… As I wrote in the spring, quitting is a concept typically associated with losers and loafers. But this level of quitting is really an expression of optimism that says, We can do better… Since the 1980s, Americans have quit less, and many have clung to crappy jobs for fear that the safety net wouldn’t support them while they looked for a new one. But Americans seem to be done with sticking it out. And they’re being rewarded for their lack of patience: Wages for low-income workers are rising at their fastest rate since the Great Recession. The Great Resignation is, literally, great. For workers, that is… Job openings are sky-high. Many positions are going unfilled for months. Meanwhile, supply chains are breaking down because of a hydra of bottlenecks. Running a company requires people and parts. With people quitting and parts missing, it must kinda suck to be a boss right now. (Oh, well!).”

Indeed this phenomenon is like nothing we have ever experienced in our lifetime. Often workers (Especially low wage employees) have had very little autonomy or control over their labor or conditions at the job. But for the first time they feel empowered to explore other options. If you want to read more on this topic you can read the rest of Thompson’s article. You can also read Thompson’s more recent article entitled Three Myths of the Great Resignation. Also please see other articles below about the Great Resignation.

Other articles on the Great Resignation
Great Resignation
What Quitters Understand About the Job Market
The Great Resignation: Why People Are Leaving Their Jobs In Growing Numbers
Why are so many Americans quitting their jobs?
From The Great Resignation To The Great Migration
The Great Resignation gets even greater
Quitting is just half the story: the truth behind the ‘Great Resignation’
Another 4.5 million workers quit in the 8th month of record exits, and it shows how the Great Resignation is here to stay
Great Resignation: The number of people quitting jobs hit an all-time high in November as openings stayed near record
Resignation nation: Record number of Americans quit their jobs before the holidays
Help Wanted: Where Are The Workers?
Low Pay, No Benefits, Rude Customers: Restaurant Workers Quit At Record Rate
As The Pandemic Recedes, Millions Of Workers Are Saying ‘I Quit’


  1. Overall, I feel like we can all agree that we are seeing less and less staff in warehouses, customer service industries, etc. I personally related to the introduction when it said, “Or when we go to a fast food restaurant the lines are unusually long.” McDonald’s has been my first and only job from the time that I was fifteen years old to being a manager now at nineteen. The article blames this shortage on the recent COVID-19 pandemic; how most had to go into quarantine, many fell ill with the sickness themselves, and some even lost their jobs completely. However, I’d take it a step even further and say that it also played a role in lowering our motivation, ambition, and energy levels towards work as well. Perhaps some Americans got too comfortable with the idea of staying home. We are all indeed feeling the effects of this “Great Resignation” because we blatantly catered to it through several pandemic-relief checks, a rent moratorium, and student-loan forgiveness. Hopefully something changes soon or we simply won’t have these industries in business.

  2. This article gives an interesting perspective on the “Great Resignation”. Instead of looking at it as such a negative thing where companies are losing workers at record rates, it focuses on the good. People are bolder to pursue their passions and leave jobs they hate, and it has caused companies to increase wages to lure workers in. My perspective on this is very different and it is only because most of these people leaving their jobs, are just simply not working at all. They are able to just live off the tax money of others without having to do any labor themselves. The lure around unemployment and the pandemic money from the government causes people to say, “Why would I work at all when I could not work and get paid more?” This is not always the case and I encourage others to pursue what they are really passionate about rather than settling for a job they hate. It all depends on people’s motivation behind quitting a job if it is a positive or negative thing. Either way the country is understaffed almost everywhere, and it is creating a lot of increased wait times, less money to be made, and more upset people.

  3. This article touches on something I think about a lot. Before the pandemic, a lot of us didn’t know we could quit these part-time jobs that don’t value our work and work from home at a job paying much more. Working part time, especially in customer or food service, can be both physically and emotionally draining. But nobody really felt like there was any other choice. It’s either you work these low paying jobs you dislike or try to survive without being able to provide for yourself.

    After the pandemic, I believe it was seen by many Americans that we don’t have to live that way, we just got stuck in a cycle and were made to believe we had to. Why would I come into a job that pays $9 and works me way more than what that $9 is worth when I can stay home, protect my peace, and have a manageable job all for $15+. We are living in a time where we are starting to demand to receive better treatment and be paid a living wage. Wages have been increasing, but still not enough to motivate people to go back to in person jobs.

  4. The article “Where are all of the Workers? The Great Resignation Explained” elaborates on the current economic situation in the United States. The article starts out by explaining relevancy; everyone is impacted by the Great Resignation. There is a shortage of staffing paired along with a global pandemic, which accelerates the great resignation. Individuals are no longer accepting fully in-person employment, as the pandemic made remote employment more popular. Individuals are no longer accepting low wages for a job that does not bring any joy.
    The Bureau of Labor Statistics is showing trends in people quitting their jobs in most industries. Positions are remaining unfilled; as a result, wages are increasing for low-income workers. It is the job seekers market, which allows job seekers to be picky with their options.

    This article was enlightening on the Great Resignation. I remember being a teenager, almost ten years ago, and getting rejected from every job I applied for. Today, you can apply today and start tomorrow. Why? Dr. Childs explains that Americans have previously held onto crappy jobs for job security; that is no longer the case. As a result, wages are increasing for low-income workers as companies are at the mercy of job seekers. For the first time in our lifetime, we are experiencing control in the labor field. Dr. Childs’ article is relevant to everyone and articulate as it discusses cause and effect of the Great Resignation.

    Source: https://www.democracyandme.org/where-are-all-of-the-workers-the-great-resignation-explained/

  5. This article was very interesting to read for me especially since I have experienced it first hand with my job. Workers constantly quitting so they can find “better jobs” or products we use being out of stock in the factories or places they come from. This is definitely a stressful time to be a manager or anyone who depends solely on their workers to show up for their shifts. Although I think it is great that workers are trying to stand up for themselves and get a higher pay, I also think it isn’t fair to those who are struggling to find staff to cover shifts. This is definitely an important issue that needs to be addressed and people should know about.

  6. Before reading this article, I have never heard about the “Great Resignations”, but I am not surprised by this. Before the pandemic the wages of some groups were ridiculous low and when unemployment benefits shattered people’s income it was no wonder that people quit their jobs. Like so many others, I have noticed that some items are still not available in grocery stores and that prizes have skyrocket. Most places offer better wages now but compared to the increase of the cost of living, it is still not enough. My team normally consist of 7-8 employees and this year so far, we only had 4. This resulted into a waiting list and many parents were not able to utilize our programs due to a staff shortage.

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