The author Derek Thompson speaks about the great resignation where Americans were quitting their jobs in large numbers. That Great Resignation? It just keeps getting greater.
“Quits,” as the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls them, are rising in almost every industry.
You may have heard the story that in the golden age of American labor, 20th-century workers stayed in one job for 40 years and retired with a gold watch. But that’s a total myth. 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 look 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.
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 be difficult to be a boss right now.
Meanwhile, the basic terms of employment are undergoing a Great Reset. The pandemic thrust many families into a homebound lifestyle reminiscent of the 19th-century agrarian economy but this time with screens galore and online delivery. More families today work at home, cook at home, care for kids at home, entertain themselves at home, and even school their kids at home. By eliminating the office as a physical presence in many (but not all!) families’ lives, the pandemic may have downgraded work as the centerpiece of their identity.
There is a Great Reshuffling of people and businesses around the country. For decades, many measures of U.S. entrepreneurship declined. But business formation has surged since the beginning of the pandemic, and the largest category by far is e-commerce. Several major companies, such as Twitter, have announced permanent work-from-home policies, while others, such as Tesla, have moved their headquarters.
As a general rule, crises leave an unpredictable mark on history. Look back to the pandemic as a crucial inflection point in something more fundamental: Americans’ attitudes toward work. Since early last year, many workers have had to reconsider the boundaries between boss and worker, family time and work time, home and office.
Migration to the suburbs accelerated. More people are abandoning their jobs to pursue new endeavors. The Great Resignation is speeding up, resulting in a centrifugal moment in American economic history.
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