The Great Resignation is accelerating

November 12, 2021, 4:38 PM UTC

The Great Resignation appears to be getting worse. In September, 4.4 million people quit their jobs, a record high, the Labor Department reported Friday.

September’s quit rate rose to 3% from its high of 2.9% the previous month, when about 4.3 million people left their jobs. By the end of September, 10.4 million jobs remained open.

The food service and retail industries are shedding workers at the highest rates. A total of 863,000 workers in food service and 685,000 in retail left their jobs in September, at rates of 6.6% and 4.4%, respectively. Meanwhile, 987,000 left hospitality, another 984,000 left trade, transportation, and utilities industries, and 589,000 left health care.

The pandemic has led millions of workers to leave their jobs, in what’s being called the Great Resignation, contributing to a growing labor shortage. Although there is a job opening for every American worker looking for employment, 7.4 million are without work as of October, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the sky-high number of quits has less to do with job availability than it does with a change in workers’ priorities, after a shock as life-altering as the onset of the pandemic, reports Fortune’s Megan Leonhardt—and some of the workers may not be coming back.

Among those who recently quit, about 44% are looking for more competitive wages and benefits, according to a September survey of 1,250 American professionals who left their job in the past six months. About 32% quit to start their own businesses. The majority, 62%, said they quit specifically to have more control over their lives and to be their “own boss.” Many are also concerned that returning to in-person work is still unsafe, and their incentive to do so is limited anyway: Employee burnout increased by almost 9% from April to July, according to LinkedIn.

The labor shortage has been top of mind for CEOs. According to Fortune’s survey in October, 57% of CEOs said they’re most concerned about “attracting and recruiting talent”; 51% said they’re worried about retaining that talent; and 35% reported they’ve offered more benefits in the past year to compensate for the latter.

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