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. Over the past two years, during the Covid pandemic, unemployment rates seems to have skyrocketed. I feel that at first all of this was due to Covid, but then after the government offered the extra unemployment money and most people could make more income by staying home than working, that this impacted the unemployment rate even more. To be honest, before reading this article, I had never heard of The Great Resignation, but I think this a great description of it.

  2. I have found that many people quit there job during the pandemic because they may have been making more from unemployment than anything. I actually know someone that quit their job and made a lot more than they ever did working at that job for 10 years. Many people are becoming extremely rude to the people serving them or cashing them out at the register, and who wants to deal with that? I know I would quit my job because of the people that came in or because of the people I work with. The pandemic did a lot to everyone and discouraged a lot of people, but now it doesn’t make sense why there is a shortage of workers. Could the shortage be because people became so lazy during the lockdown?

  3. I feel like once the pandemic hit, the gap between the extremely wealthy and the average worker became more abundantly clear than it’s been in decades. Everyone started realizing this on account of how differently the pandemic was affecting our lives. Average working-class people were largely devastated financially and couldn’t gain access to resources that were vital for survival. On the other side of things, however, the wealthy upper-class were either largely unbothered due to not having to stress about being able to afford to live/keep themselves safe from the virus or they were business owners and were essentially forcing workers to risk their health order to keep their money coming in. It was clear that no one cared about the people that were “below” them in both societal and financial status and so the working-class has taken it upon itself to assign a higher value to their work and quality of life. As a person who has quit six jobs in the past two years, I am definitely a part of this movement.

  4. As someone who works at two very busy Starbucks I have seen this all happen in real time and I 100% understand why people are quitting jobs at this time. At Starbucks we have been out of an abundance of things which is not under our control but customers inevitably take out their frustrations on us. The pay is truly not worth the constant aggression from customers. I believe if we had equal, fair pay as well as equal, fair hours for workers our economy would function much better and dealing with frustrated people during these shortages would become easier. I’m not out here making coffee for free, nor will I ever. My wage of 12 and hour is not suffice in this world.

  5. I think that this article brings a lot of important information to the table. I think with the news of COVID-19 coming to a slim notice, I have seen this issue become less. Being a senior in college working a part time job to make bills, I have seen the problem of no work based on the economy status. With this high inflation on the economy, I have struggle to work and maintain the hours of my normal schedule. So, I have seen this job need to increase in my own work space but just to the reason that we do not have enough work.

  6. I think this article makes a lot of good points about the great resignation. Now that there are more vacancies in higher paying jobs people who met the requirements but could not land the job now have a chance to be hired for a better position. Because of this great resignation people in these lower paying, less thankful Jobs are seeing a way out. Now that many of these people have a new safety net from the government they feel that they can finally take time to pursue a more meaningful job. While it is great for people individually to move in to higher paying jobs there’s now a void in these lower paying jobs. This new void in his lower paying jobs has created increased stress on companies to fill positions. In order to fill these positions company offer sign on bonuses, better pay, and better working conditions. Although these things are great, they can have an adverse effect on the economy. Now that companies have to pay their workers more, they will be making less money, and in order to recoup that they will be raising their prices. This rise in cost will have a negative affect on the economy, causing inflation to rise.

  7. I think this article was very informative and I can definitely tell a difference in workers in almost every place I go to. There are longer waits at restaurants, more emptiness on the shelves, and fewer people working. I also think this boils down to minimum wage and the fact that employers/managers treat part-time employees like they are replaceable. I 100% support the employees leaving their jobs, but I hope there is a resolution soon so that people can get back to work and provide for their families better than before.

  8. I have definitely noticed the lack of workers. I experienced it. I worked at Chick-fil-A and we were short staffed almost every day. It was hard to get new workers because of COVID.

  9. I really have noticed that there are less workers and not enough products and produce on the shelfs as there used to be. I understand that there is a need for the minimum wage to be raised and this will definitely open the eyes of the higher ups to figure it out sooner or later. I just wish it didn’t have to go this far because now quality of products, service, and produce are suffering the price. I just hope this all will be settled soon, and the world can go back to semi normal kind of like before, but hopefully better.

  10. I personally enjoyed this article. I think a lot of companies just see the people beneath or at the entry level as pawns for their job. We are all human and we all deserve to be treated as such. I know for myself that every day I go in I say it’s because I need the money. If I didn’t need the money I wouldn’t be here. fortunately enough some people are able to leave the job that they currently are at that they do not find enjoyment in and look for something better. I know when my parents complain about how this place or that place is closed because of Staffing I go good for those people. I like to see that the younger generations are realizing that if we just keep letting them do it nothing’s going to change.

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