What’s up with the job market?

November 11, 2021 | By: Dr. Michael Childers


Last month #Striketober was trending. Some have coined the current trend as “The Great Resignation.” Or is it the “The Great Reshuffle?” Or just the result of Covid-19 burnout? Is it just that workers are more comfortable having a greater financial cushion than pre-Covid, and using those reserves to be more discerning, creating a tight labor market bubble that will dissipate as labor supply rises and workers boomerang back once their accounts get lean? And many wonder, are we at the beginning of a recalibration of work and our relationship with it?

The answer seems to be partially yes to all of this. While every aspect varies by the specific situation, these factors are all part of the broader picture in understanding the reasons creating where the job market stands. Workers in some cases – for example, food and hospitality – were forced by Covid to look for a change, and have decided that they can do better. Workers across sectors are quitting low-paying jobs for higher-paying jobs, and remote work options have allowed other workers to leave great jobs for even better opportunities. Workers have been leaving at historically high rates, creating a self-reinforcing loop in an already tight labor market by being more selective about their next job. Demand for workers continues to be strong, and so is wage growth as employers compete in a bid to retain and attract talent. Employers now commonly struggle with hiring, seeing prospective candidates disappear or ‘ghosting’ them even after job offers are extended, getting a taste of the experience most job seekers are familiar with.

Quips like the Great Resignation invoke the echoes of the Great Depression of the 1930s, but the analogy is inadequate and no soundbite label is sufficient to explain the various forces and shift in values that seem to be occurring. As workers weigh their options and prioritize what’s most important, we continue to watch carefully to understand the lasting impact of Covid and the consequences of new policies on work and workers, in terms of job mobility, organizing, and contract bargaining.