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Great Resignation Plods On With Elevated Quits Across States

All states and many industry sectors are still seeing people quitting their jobs at a higher level than before the pandemic.

Call it a twist on “quiet quitting”: Data shows the Great Resignation in the U.S. is continuing at a steady but slightly muted level.

The latest figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show the national quits rate – which reflects employees who voluntarily left a job, aside from retirements and transfers – measured at 2.7% as of preliminary data for December 2022 and has yet to drop to pre-pandemic levels. Prior to March 2020, the seasonally adjusted quits rate ranged from 1.2% to 2.4% over roughly two decades.

A more granular look shows that regional quits rates remain significantly higher than pre-pandemic averages, and are particularly elevated in Southern states and in industry sectors like health care and social assistance. In the majority of industry categories tracked in the federal Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey series – under both broad and narrower classifications – the average rate at which people have quit their jobs since March 2020 has jumped by at least 10% compared with average pre-pandemic levels.

For example, the average quits rate in the health care and social assistance sector from March 2020 through the preliminary data for December 2022 was 2.4% – 38% higher than the sector’s pre-pandemic average of 1.7%. The rate also does not appear to be dropping: In December, the industry’s quits rate was 2.7%, notably higher than pre-pandemic rates that did not surpass 2.2% between January 2012 and February 2020.

In industries like health care and education, it can be particularly hard to recruit replacements for people who quit in rural areas or in states with higher costs of living. Notably, Southern states – which historically have tended to have higher quits rates than states in other regions – also have tended to see proportionally higher increases in quits rates since the pandemic began.

Since March 2020, for example, the state-level average quits rate in Georgia has been 3.44%, compared with the state’s average pre-pandemic rate of 2.25%. That represents about a 53% increase in average quits rate and marks the highest such increase of any state as of December 2022.

Mississippi, New Jersey and Kentucky also saw average rate increases of more than 45% when comparing their average pre-pandemic rates – from January 2012 to February 2020 – to their average rates between March 2020 and December 2022. Colorado, Utah and Pennsylvania had the smallest average rate increases at less than 15%.

Data at the state level for December 2022 was released Feb. 15, while industry-level data was released earlier in the month.

A high quits rate may spell trouble for a particular state or industry – think only of the struggles in health care to attract and retain enough nurses. But elevated rates may not translate to bad news for workers themselves. For example, an industry in which workers have confidence in their ability to find higher pay or better benefits in a different job may see a higher quits rate.

In fact, as the Great Resignation has plodded along, unemployment in January hit 3.4% for its lowest level since 1969. Wages have risen – complicating the Federal Reserve’s task of battling inflation – and though figures may be revised later, data indicates plenty of jobs are out there to be had.

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